And to the oft-quoted 'I'm too busy to carve out time', believe me, I've had to learn the hard way. Busy lives do not always equal better or more productive, if anything, from my experience it's more detrimental. Elsewhere I've written about making space at the edges of our fields rather than trying to harvest to the max. The result is that growth occurs in the 'set aside' when we allow God space to cultivate.To get balance in our lives as followers of Jesus requires a culture change which, I'm not for one minute saying is easy...but it is good and it is right and it is essential.
Tuesday 5th October 2021
To fuel or not to fuel...that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to leave one's car in the garage and walk, than suffer the slings and arrows of fuel starved drivers or, take one's vehicle towards a sea of forecourt troubles, and by turning up, suffer judgement. I'm sure that Shakespere would facepalm at this contextual revision of his lauded text but who cares. It's certainly been interesting to see how people have reacted to 'there's plenty fuel but not in the tankers' narrative that has played out this week. Many I'm certain have had good reason to need cars filled for essential journeys not to mention frontline emergency services and I'm equally certain that others have not, and their cars are now surreptitiously parked up in their garages next to the 1250 toilet rolls they purchased this time last year 'just in case'.
Nonetheless, fuel or the lack of it has been uppermost in my mind this week. Yesterday I retreated to Barrowburn. It's nearly 6 months since I was last there and let's just say it was overdue. For those of you who've been, Barrowburn is the home of Scott and Catherine Iley and sits in the National Park towards Otterburn and is miles from anywhere. Even the journey there is helpful for just breathing in Creation and allowing the cares and burdens of life to slowly lift in the majesty of God's country.
Just like many of those drivers sat in forecourts, this was an essential journey for me, a time to come away and spend time with God in the quietness of deepest Northumberland and sit by still waters. Just like many of those regretting drivers, I wished I'd done it sooner rather than just about making the refuelling point on 'fumes'. Just like those drivers with sweaty palms, I headed to Barrowburn with a heightened anxiety because I'd gone too long between pit stops and a 'will I, won't I get there?' seeped into my subconscious. So a mindset change was needed and, as I spent time with Scott in the rhythm of Lectio Divina and spiritual accompaniment with Catherine, I was able to move from all those things in my head that I could be doing to concentrate on what should be done - or better put - as Jesus described to Martha, 'Mary has chosen the best part' as she sat at Jesus' feet.
It's not that I overfill my diary to the point of exhaustion, my boundaries are getting better in that respect; rather that there's not enough balance between 'the doing and the being'. I simply can't serve you or the community or God from an empty tank. If I am to convey more of Him to others then I need to allow more of Him into my schedule. It can't be piecemeal but needs to be about the quality of time. And of course, Jesus speaks truth into this in the gospels: Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 (Message)
And yes, this is for me, and it's for you and, it's also for the church. Why? Because emerging from the last 18 months and the enforced stopping of many activities means that we need to take stock about balance, learning to be programme lite but people and prayer focussed. Spending time asking God where and who He leads us to is good but/and we are better equipped for mission when we spend time at the Well of His filling, not downing frantic glugs like a marathon runner grabbing at a bottle from a water station but a proper sitting down in His presence, waiting on Him, hearing His Voice... Spirit filled.