Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Therapy of Doing

This wasn't the blog post I was toying with writing, but it's on my mind NOW, and I have time NOW, and so I am going with it! (Two blog posts in as many days. Try to maintain your seat.)

I'm a natural homebody--I've never been the sort who liked to go "out," whatever that entailed: in high school, the mall; in college, the clubs; in my twenties, the bars. I enjoy spending time with people, but I prefer small groups to large, and the standard bar scene brings out the old lady in me ("Why is the music so loud?!" "Could that woman's skit be any shorter?! JEEPERS CREEPERS!").

And now that I live alone again, I spend a good deal of time on my couch, reading or watching movies (or blogging, ha ha). I It's just the sort of person I am: snuggled up with a book and a beverage and a candle (a fire would be preferred, but without a fireplace, my landlord might object to that part) are my ideal evening, weeknight or weekend. I love to entertain, but if we're talking day-in, day-out behavior, that's me.

But I was noticing in the last several days that I sometimes mistake that preternatural leaning for idleness. I get this expectation that I have free time, therefore I should bask in it and do nothing. And while there is an absolute need for rest, I think there's a reason for the biblical (and, at one time, cultural) concept of one day of rest for every six of work. Because excess rest is addictive, and potentially as problematic as too little.

I've been noticing this because, coming out of the Christmas season, I have had, perhaps, a glut of rest. I just had a week of vacation in late November, and so was not necessarily desperate for time off again so soon, but I had a four-day weekend last week and a three-day weekend this week, and meanwhile a few of my normal responsibilities have been back-burnered during the holidays, so I've had extra time after work, too. But I got sick of sitting around, and sick quickly. I started feeling like a Neanderthal, slugging around, knuckles dragging the carpet. So I started doing stuff, mostly out of boredom--and then noticed that the more I did--whether it was cleaning and making meals for the week, or working on my brother and sister-in-law's long-overdue Christmas present, or hanging the photos on the wall (3 months after moving--that's a record by a long shot)--the better I felt.

I hope this isn't inspiring you to throw things at your computer--I promise, in a couple weeks I'll be manic again, as usual, and then I won't recognize this over-rested version of myself as human, either--but stick with me for a minute. I don't think we're wired for nothing. As much as we're told that absolute bliss is sitting on a beach somewhere far away from obligations and responsibilities, I don't think we would do well in that environment for long. A little rest, a little vacation, a little downtime? Absolutely. But a lifestyle of it? I think we were wired for something better than that, something more connected and messy and disorganized. Humanity comes to mind.

For most of this weekend, I could have sat on my couch and watched The Two Towers and all the making-of featurettes that come with it. And I probably would have felt like death warmed over afterwards, like a slugging Neanderthal. But instead, I got out: I volunteered my time, I spent time talking with friends who needed an outlet, I got things done around the house, I walked all over my town to and from errands. And now I'm tired and achy and want to curl up in a ball, but I feel good.

Don't mistake this for How Awesome Am I talk--I'm just saying, 7 days of rest and I've figured something out. I'm sure I'll need to figure it all out again in a month or two, but for now, I'm feeling very pleased with myself and with what God's shown me about how he made me today.

That's it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Promise in the Land of Unknowns

Part of my reason for maintaining a blog--why most people would just keep a journal, but somehow the potential posterity keeps me (slightly) more accountable--is to be able to look back and see where I've come from, what I thought and felt, and what pretty words I came up with to describe it. And some months ago, I wrote the following:

I am what seems to be a dying breed: the truly, contentedly single. God sets the desires of my heart, and He intends to give them to me in divine timing, unfolding a plan of the most complex, beautiful, perfect design. Whatever it is, I'm confident it will blow my mind, knock the wind out of me, and drop me to my knees.

Well, dang. Who is that chick, and has she written a book or something? (Hint: no.) I do believe that I was in that place in September, but it's just not where I'm batting from these days. I elect not to blame the holidays, thought they play into it--I've just been in a funk. If all the cards are on the table, I'm sick of waiting. What's the holdup? I'm done. Ready for my man. Let's do this. And before I even apologize for whining, I'll say that I caught myself inadvertently giving myself some excellent, convicting advice yesterday. I was catching a friend up on an ongoing saga, and I was paraphrasing advice that I had given to a friend. Both he and I are dealing with similar issues, on different scales: Living life while a God-given promise goes unfulfilled. (We'll save the details of that for another post--just go with me for now.)  

In the various parables of Jesus, the only case (that I can think of) where waiting is acceptable is when it's in reference to God--waiting for the return of Christ, for the coming of the Kingdom--and even then, we're not to be ONLY waiting. Back to back (Matthew 25), Jesus tells two stories: one about virgins waiting for a bridegroom, the other about servants left with money in their master's absence. Taken together, the point Jesus makes is simple: be ready, be waiting, be prepared--but don't just sit and expect showing up to be enough. 

(Sidebar: In rereading the parable of the ten virgins just now, something struck me: five were foolish and five were wise, but, "The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep" [v. 5, emphasis mine]. Without reading into that too much, I'm going to deduce that even the wise are allowed to get tired of waiting.)

I have a promise, if for nothing else, that God will take care of me and meets my "needs"--physical, emotional, spiritual. But sometimes the bridegroom is later than we expected. At best, we fall asleep; more often, I'm pacing in the dark, getting madder by the minute.

Every year about this time, two things happen simultaneously in my brain: I get mystified and fed up with talk of "this is the year" and resolutions and promises, and I end up, through subliminal whatevers, making these little discoveries about myself that shift the ways in which I want to live. It's not a New Year's thing, it's an understanding that I am being made new, I am on the edge of a new future every day, whether it's January or August. But I guess the corporate mania of the new reminds me of what is always true.

How do you live in the shadow of promises unfulfilled? How do you deal with the worry--the threat--that you've grossly misunderstood something, that you didn't get a divine memo, that you'll look a fool? I don't know, but I've got some good pointers:

"'You are my witnesses,' declares the Lord, 'and my servant who I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me... Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.'" - Isaiah 43: 10, 18-19

"'This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.'"  - Habakkuk 2:3