We live in a world of perpetual motion. Everything, from the blood cells racing through my fingers to the atoms that make the plastic in my keyboard, is moving somehow, even if only by indecipherable vibrations and whirling electrons. Minutes congeal into hours, and hours pull our days along, and somewhere we tend to forget the sanctity of every breath.
Maybe there’s a touch of cosmic irony in the fact that I noticed this while mindlessly checking Twitter on my phone for the 58th time one day. I live in perpetual motion, up-to-the-second gratification of my need to know. And along the way, my eternally racing thoughts forgot how to be still.
What does stillness look like? What is peace? The old song talks about “peace like a river,” and my Florida-bred heart finds her rest on a quiet beach, where the ocean’s cadence sounds like the tired earth’s breathing and I can walk ankle-deep in sand for hours without feeling the least bit tired. But even there is motion, flow. Maybe the purest form of that kind of solitude is an expanse of a lake, undisturbed by wind or waves, mirror-like and so clear you could see the bottom if you dared lean over far enough.
Yes. Something like that.
Whatever that is, I can’t remember the last time I felt it. A soul calm and quiet, simply at rest.
Today was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I’ve grown to love this season, mostly for the way it refocuses my heart on the promise of Easter. I don’t know if it’s the spring-like weather or the aforementioned constant motion, but somehow it sneaked up on me this year. That might not be so bad, since it affords little time to think out a plan of sacrificial attack, but at the same time it’s hard to drum up the “right” feelings during this time. I’m “supposed” to feel heaviness, something real and meaningful and holy. As I thought about it, my list of potential sacrifices grew and grew, and so did my insecurity… what if I haven’t been doing this for the right reasons? Why bother?
Then I remembered those images. The lake. The quiet. Downcast eyes and a near-breaking heart. What if Lent could be less about giving things up and more about pursuing a stillness of heart I may never reach unless I let it come find me.
So here it is. Day 1. I did give something up — my usual coffee, a small thing of no spiritual consequence that I can live without. Rather than a sacrifice, I think of it as a very small token of gratitude. But, perhaps more importantly, I want to add more meaningful quiet to my life. It may look like taking the time I spend compulsively checking Facebook and using that to write and read. It may be time to do nothing and not feel guilty about it. It may also mean initiating real conversations with people I care about, or writing some letters (you know. with a pen.)
Who knows? That’s the thing, isn’t it? The pursuit of stillness leads to deeper mysteries, if one is quiet long enough to hear them.
I greatly appreciated Kristin’s post “Giving Up the Heaviness of Lent” at Halfway to Normal today. It sounds like we wrestled with some similar thoughts in the time leading up to Lent. Do me a favor and go read her blog, k?