Hurrying is the enemy of our peace and joy through contemplation. I know this to be true because I’ve spent untold years hurrying…to catch up, to not be late, to make up for whatever I had not done, et cetera. I was the kid whose report card always read: “Todd is very gifted, but does not use his time well. He could achieve more if he would manage his time better.” (That’s an actual quote from one of my Third Grade report cards.)
So here I am in my early 50’s still hurrying…and I don’t know why. I find myself hurrying to get out the door in the morning. I find myself hurrying (and impatient) on my hour-long commute to work. I find myself hurrying to get things ready for Church. And the list goes on and on. And all the while I’m longing for peace. I’m waiting to “exhale”. I’m waiting to notice (and live) the beauty of life.
Then it dawned on me (for the hundredth time!): By managing my time better I can free myself from being a slave to the clock. And this is really important for me. I’m leading a parish that’s looking at “The Rule of St. Benedict” as a means of going deeper with Jesus. And you can’t read the Rule without noticing that St. Benedict rightly calls on the brothers/sisters in the monastery to observe the times of the day and the need for quiet and focus in prayer as well as an attitude of quiet and focus in prayerful labor.
So I finally decided to make a change. After all, I can’t preach what I’m not practicing! And the change started by “strolling to work” instead of “rushing to work”. I also serve as a full-time prison chaplain at a prison an hour away from home. So I have ten hours (sometimes more) in which to find either peace and joy through contemplation each week or stress and tension through hurrying.
I knew that I had to make a change when I began feeling a deeper separation from God. I knew that I wasn’t caring for myself in the way he asks us to…and I felt it. So I decided to slow down during my morning commute each day!
On the first morning I tried this (just a couple of weeks ago) it was slightly cool, a little foggy, and such a beautiful morning. I drive through the hills of eastern Kentucky (part my drive is through the Daniel Boone National Forest, around Cave Run Lake!). It was like I was seeing everything around me for the first time. And the thought came into my mind that I was “walking to work” instead of driving to work.
To be honest with you, I have become the driver that I used to get angry with…the one that drives under the speed limit! I really had the sense that I was strolling to work in a leisurely fashion. The only thing missing was a neighbor to wave to! I couldn’t believe the peace and joy that I had been missing.
I’m praying while in the car again. I’m letting my mind wander with Jesus as he shows me the goldenrod and lets me hear the crickets and birds through the open moon roof. I’m finding wholeness again. I’m sensing God’s peace in my heart and mind again. I won’t regret the years in which I denied myself this blessing, but I’ll do everything I can to not go back to those ways again.
If you can, please “stroll to work” tomorrow!