But We Return
When it comes to listening, I find that there are a lot of distractions in my way, particularly the little badges and banners of iPhone notifications that beckon me one at a time to dive deeper and deeper out of real life and into my phone. To offset this, a few months ago I began enacting what I like to call, "Analog Sundays." It started just by swapping out my Apple Watch for an analog watch. Suddenly messages that were coming to my wrist would only go to my phone, and I was one step further away from checking it (#firstworldproblem, I know). This has gradually evolved into also leaving my phone in my room, opting for books over TV and sometimes playing only records instead of streaming music off my phone. On Analog Sundays, if I’m talking about a new movie with someone and can’t remember the name of the actor, I just say, “I don’t know,” and we move onto the next topic of conversation. A revelation, I know! Instead of planning out everything I’m going to do that day, I actually try to commit it to memory. This simple practice frees my mind and yields benefits similar to that of going on a retreat or even on a vacation.
As my week unfolds and I get back to work, naturally, the watch goes back on, and the notifications ping and pong. But every Sunday is a breath of fresh air, a reminder of my day of rest, and the ability to always return to what is simple and physically right before me. Going "analog" could look different for everyone, but the idea is to unplug from distraction and return to attention.
Jesus Works With Busy People
I can’t help but relate to how Jesus calls his disciples out of their busyness and into walking with Him. In the Gospel reading this past Sunday, Jesus walks Peter, James and John up a mountain and is transfigured before them: suddenly shining like the sun, dressed in white robes with prophets, Moses and Elijah, beside him. Peter responds with an offer to make tents for them. In other words, “What can I do?” And then this happens:
“While he (Peter) was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
- Matthew 17:5
God interrupts Peter. Rather than affirm Peter's tent idea, God invites him to slow down, stop working, and ... listen. Yes, even disciples need to listen. The affliction of busyness that plagues us today, was also a thing back then.
Consider the Cherry Tree
Over the past week all across the country, we have experienced a return of winter. After an unseasonably warm February, the month of March, like the lion it is, brought below freezing temperatures and even snow to parts of the country. As I’m writing this, my weather app says that it “feels like 18,” when a month ago I was on the beach and it was 73 out (see painful evidence to the right). Up in DC, their cherry blossoms began to bloom three weeks ahead of schedule, which has brought up headlines concerning their health and longevity. In the midst of this crazy return to winter, I invite us, to stop and listen to what this year’s odd process of blooming might be saying...
Mark Nepo, in his book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen offers a story about a cherry tree outside his home (page 32). With blossoms that only last for a few days in May, he and his wife would lay out under the tree during those days to soak in this brief moment. He meditates on both the joy of seeing the blossoms and the occasional sadness that rises in their absence. Nepo recalls going out to the tree on a winter day, placing his hand on the trunk and hearing the words, “neither the fullness, nor the bareness lasts, but we return.”
Spring arrives and we see these blossoms come and go all too quickly. The fullness does not last. Similarly, as the year goes on, we see multi-colored leaves lose the strength to hold onto their branches. But the bareness does not last either. I invite us to consider the blossoms of the past few weeks as a promise, that, though they may be gone, they will return. Like the transfiguration, they are a sign of what is to come, the fullness of the season of spring. All will return.
Consider for a moment these pictures I took over the last couple weeks... Flowers budding on March 2 and then blooming on March 8.
In our busyness, it is easy to overlook the blossoms in our life, the quiet openings. But we are always given a second chance. If you observe Lent, you know what I mean. Full of fervor, we start with a firm resolution to give up X and oftentimes we fall. What the transfiguration and the blossoms remind us of is the sanctity of that early opening and willingness to grow. We fall, we close back up, we come down the mountain, and we try again.
Know that despite the bareness, the fullness of the next season awaits. Perhaps it’s only for a weekend, or a week or even a whole season. But trust that Easter will come, that the blossoms will return, and that the fruit of your sacrifice will arrive.
- Where in your life can you go "analog"?
- What’s distracting you, and keeping you from where you want to grow?
- If you’ve fallen, can you allow yourself to get back up?
- With an inhale, take in the present moment in its joys and struggles, and with an exhale, remain open to the promise of the season to come.