Thursday, June 12, 2008

What I am (not) doing in Burundi

I am not doing a lot of things in Burundi that were normative for me back in Arizona.  Here is a starter list:
  • I am not doing laundry
  • I am not cleaning house (or even making my own bed)
  • I am not going grocery shopping
  • I am not cooking
  • I am not driving around town
So this brings another question to the forefront - what am I doing in Burundi these days?  Here is another list:
  • I read (three books so far... I might even run out before the summer is over!)
  • I write in my journal
  • I listen to music and podcasts
  • I correspond (mostly via email)
  • I spend time in long, unhurried conversation with friends
There is a pace of life here that is unheard of back home - one that is not dominated by the watch or clock, not determined by the long list of tasks that must be accomplished in short order.  At home there is time to do, here there is ample time to be.  When you have the unhurried opportunity to just be, you gradually become more human, as was intended by our Creator.

I mentioned it before, but the thought returns that Sabbath, with good reason, is a biblical imperative.  When we cease from frantic activity, we can begin to untangle some of the knots we've gotten ourselves into over time.  We can relax and let those tense places in our psyche unclench and loosen.  Gently and without hurry we can begin to pull things out and begin to reflect more deeply on who we are and what drives us.  Busyness can drive us - but it does not fulfill us and does not define us in terms of God's intent for us.  

So this is my Sabbath season, a time to rest and read and reflect.  A time to re-imagine what might be ahead for me and my family.  As years of hurry fall off like scales, I can begin to find a deeper peace within my own soul and be in a place where I can imagine new things.  Here you don't have to rush to answers, to quickly determine outcomes or react to anything with immediacy.  You can let questions linger, you can take time to discern and watch things unfold before making a premature move to solve or correct.  

We have been encouraged, since Creation, to follow God's example and rest every week.  Every week there is a time to sit back and refrain from the frantic, fast-pace demands of life.  Every week we take a day off, a day to declare that we are not our job, we are not defined by our production, our worth is not determined by our paycheck.  We take a day to receive holy gifts, as Walter Brueggeman so elegantly says.  Sabbath is a time to receive from others - chiefly from God himself (who loves to give good gifts to his children, the Bible says), but also from those around us.  We receive, and that reminds us that we do not live on our own merits alone, we live by the grace of God who makes the sun to shine, the skies to rain and the sweet fruit of summer to ripen on the vine.  We receive from our family and friends gifts of deep laughter, unhurried conversation, unspoken affection... reminders of our inter dependance - things we can only accept when we take time to be present and undistracted.  

When was the last time your Sabbath (maybe Sunday for you) was a day of unhurried receptivity?  A day not of rushing to a church service, or doing several loads of laundry or spent in front of the computer on a work project?  But a day when you sat back and received all that is good in life, the things you cannot create or work up on your own, but must just accept with open hands from others?  I am convinced that we need to receive in order to be fully human, as God intended.  We need to stop running - and rest, receive and be restored.

Sabbath is not just for Africa (though it is so abundant here), it is for America and all the world that God created.  So I wish you each sabbath - a time to (not) do something, a time to be who you most truly are created to be as you receive from God and others.

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