Wednesday, May 18, 2011
That we ought to live at the speed of life
... and that's a lot steadier and slower than many of us may think.
I've often found myself tearing around, madly trying to tick jobs of a "To Do Today" list, and while I'm completing one as fast as I can, I'm already thinking about the next. Or else there are voices in my ear crying out, "Muuuum ...." while I'm trying to keep my mind on the job at hand.
Well, one day a few years ago now, my family and I stopped at the Mt Gambier caravan park on our way back from a trip to Victoria. It was the tail-end of a long drive. Rather than being the focus of our holiday this time, Mt Gambier was just the last stop on the way home. Andrew decided to have a football game with the kids as Logan had been nagging him for a kick. I'd exhausted myself racing after and entertaining our toddler, Blake, who had a way of quietly disappearing and getting into mischief. I just wanted to relax but started thinking how close the Blue Lake* was, just over the hill.
I suggested that we all walk over for a look, but nobody else was interested. After all, we'd seen it before, it wasn't the focus of this trip and there was a footy to kick, but as we'd come so far, I felt sort of obligated. So I called to the others to keep an eye on Blake and headed over myself, striding briskly to get another job out of the way.
When I caught my first glimpse of it, the serenity of that vivid blue sheet made me pause. I sat on an overlooking bench and studied how the summer breeze gently caught it, highlighting the ripples. A flash of light in one spot traveled right across the surface to begin gently somewhere else. Although full of movement, it was a beautiful, serene sight. I liked the way the same breeze that caressed the water also tickled my face.
I realized that my heart had been thumping, my mind was still in its racing mode, saying, "Get back to the kids now," my feet and hands felt jittery and restless. Furthermore, I knew that my body had been running in this high gear all holiday and I hadn't even known it until I took the time to pause. I'd been forcing myself to live beyond the optimum speed of life that God had set in place. The rest of creation, which has no free choice in the matter, was reminding me how I should move.
I like to think back to that day on occasions when my body sets itself into 'full steam ahead' mode without my realizing it. The tell-tale symptoms of digestive disturbances and panic attacks, which I used to attribute to wrong foods and stressful thoughts, are often just signs that I'm trying to live faster than the speed of life.
My new philosophy is to work steadily without multi-tasking, focusing my attention completely on whatever I'm doing as if that's all I have to think about. I try to take rests for quiet times and walks whenever I feel like it. My mobile phone needs to be charged regularly, and human bodies work on a similar principle when we keep giving out energy. I often achieve more in a day this way and think clearer at the same time.
One of my favourite old Christian writers, Brother Lawrence (pictured above), understood the secret of living at the speed of life. "Even when he was busiest in the kitchen, it was evident that the brother's spirit was dwelling in God. He often did the work that two usually did but he never seemed to bustle. Rather, he gave each chore the time that it required, always preserving his modest and tranquil air, working neither slowly nor swiftly, dwelling in calmness of soul and unalterable peace." (The Practice of the Presence of God)
* For those who live far away, Mt Gambier's Blue Lake is one of South Australia's spots of pride. It is an ancient volcano crater which turns a deep, vivid shade of incredible blue for only the summer months. In the winter months its water is as grey as anywhere else.