“Today I wondered What is the worth of a day? Once, a day was long. It was bright and then it wasn’t, meals happened, and school happened, and sports practice, maybe, happened, and two days from this day there would be a test, or an English paper would be due, or there would be a party for which I’d been waiting, it would seem, for years…. Not anymore. The “day” no longer exists. The smallest unit of time I experience is the week. But in recent years the week, like the penny, has also become a uselessly small currency. The month is, more typically, the smallest unit of time that I experience….A month is marked, not by a sense that time has passed, but by a series of automated withdrawals. I look at my bank account, near zero, and realize, It must be March.”*
Do these words resonate with you? Do you also have the sense that the days careen headlong into evening, that you had a lovely day in August and the next time you looked up, November was upon you? We are all so busy, so deeply committed to so many things, or, at least, so busy making commitments to things that we sometimes care something about, that it is easy to lose our place in time, to lose our moorings in the reality of this world we inhabit.
The prophet Isaiah describes such a life in the words we read at Morning Prayer today: “Truly, … God will speak to this people, to whom he has said, ‘This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose’; yet they would not hear. Therefore the word of the Lord will be to them, ‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little’; in order that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken.” (Isaiah 28:11-13) He is describing a driven life: a life in which the demands of society conspire with our own internal demons to drive us beyond the endurance and health of flesh and bone and mind.
It is not the life God intends for us, the God who ordains that we should sometimes rest.
It is not easy to carve out space to rest. It requires us to refuse demands which seem reasonable, even some demands that we truly wish to meet. But that’s not the tough part. The tough part is accepting that what we accomplish is not the only measure of who we are, that the most deep and real measure is not in our hands at all, but given to us with our first breath in this green earth: we are children of God, and that imparts to each one of us infinite worth. Perfect dignity. And the unbreakable love of God.
We cannot earn that love. We cannot qualify for it. The only thing we can do is accept it. And when we do, then we are able, from time to time, to lay down our burdens and rest awhile.
Not forever. Our work is a gift, too: our opportunity to shape a world the way we think God calls us to shape it. But long enough to breathe. Long enough for us to see the beauty that is around us. Long enough for us to notice who is around us, and how wonderful it is that they are there at all.
Then we can move again, for then we will really live.
- These words are taken from Heidi Julavits, The Folded Clock: A Diary.