If God gives you a rabbit, chase it to its hole.
Our youth pastor said this recently and it is still tickling my ears. I am not talking about a wild goose chase, that's another thing entirely. It could be an Alice in Wonderland whisper, I'm not sure. I took it to mean follow in the Spirit as Abraham going to only God-knows-where or Moses to the Promised Land, step-by-step into the unknown with the One who knows us true and best.
But can a rabbit be unhurried?
Each month this year, I am taking stock of how a girl with a hurry-up heart is going unhurried.
You might think it would be easy, but it is taking some re-arranging of my outsides and insides and dogged determination to slow down, to breathe deeply and just to be. I tend to be a rabbit, not a tortoise. I am learning to love the tortoise. I am taking down what Henri Nouwen called scaffolding, things that hold me up in good light and let me build. Lent is the perfect season for such undoing.
This hurry-up girl is finding unhurried like so:
- I am noticing small.
In some ways, life is just as it was, full of work and family and everyday stuff, though just plain less of it all. But in other ways, it is very different. On my way to things that need to be done, I am looking, listening and loving with a relaxed heart. First I breathe. Just take deep breaths. Then I try not to miss what is right in front of me, both big and small; the morning sky, the dirty dishes, my view from the kitchen sink, my dog growing old, thoughts of friends floating through my mind, a call home.
2.I am reading good books.
Years ago, a wise mama told me that reading good books had taken her through the loneliness of being a stay-at-home mama. Well, that was music to my ears. I already loved to read, but I had made the mistake of making it a luxury during the diapering years. I started piling books on my bedside. I have since made reading an integral part of my everyday: my non-profit work, my writing, my faith and falling asleep at night. Reading as air to breathe has created moments not only to rest my hands, but to fill my heart. Reading in all the cracks of life has helped me lean into the pace of grace.
What am I reading? Mostly non-fiction, but a well-told story can make my soul smile too. I just finished The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield and "Oh my!". First the names of her characters touched a southern cord with me. There was a mama named Willadee, her son Noble and her daughter Swan, a boy named Blade and his brother Blue. Her writing had me repeating certain lines out loud just to taste the sound of them.
Samuel Lake was magic. he was wonderful and terrible, with an awful temper and reassume tenderness, and when he loved, he loved with his whole heart. he had a clear tenor voice, and he could play the guitar or the fiddle or the mandolin or just about any other instrument you could think of. Folk all over the country used to talk about Samuel and his music.
"He can make strings talk."
"He can make them speak in tongues."
Parts of her story were hard, tragic even, but it felt as though it came from a real place with real people, people I would have liked to have known in my life. I hated for it to end.
Of course, to chase my rabbit right now, the thread of my current reading is about being unhurried: The Life you Always Wanted by John Ortburg and The Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling. Somewhere along the way, I also discovered Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank Laubach. Like a pulled thread, are the blessings from reading good books; one good read leads to another. Letters is Laubach's diary as he learned to walk and talk with, and listen to God part of every minute of everyday.
Laubach gave me words for two practices that help me keep an unhurried heart.
3.I am playing the Game with Minutes.
Frank Laubach was a missionary in Lake Lanao in the Philippines in the 1930's. He spoke with and listened to God on the small rise behind his hut called Signal Hill. The perfect name I think.
Born out of discouragement that he was shut out of the hearts of the people he came to love and serve, he began a spiritual experiment to see how many minutes of every hour he could fill with God.
A line I starred in his diary (one of many) helps me to see that fits and starts are all part of a spiritual journey and perfect places for God to fill.
"If this record of a soul struggle to find God is to be complete, it must not omit the story of difficulty and failure."
I have to tell you, I am still looking for the shortest line and the fastest lane. Heaven help me!
In my own game with minutes, I am keeping my feet on the ground. I don't just want my head in the clouds (I do!), but I am wiping tears and snot with my shirtsleeve. We have things to do and our faith is for real life. Jesus is not just for some misty-eyed later, He is for the gritty here and now. Jesus in bone and skin was to touch and be touched. He brought his relationship with the Father to bear in human life. He didn't float above the ground, He walked the dirt. Even after His resurrection, he kept his wounds and ate a sea shore meal.
Our wounds matter now and in eternity. We might have anxiety and heartbreak, stolen childhood, heavy grief or bone racking pain and cancer like a fire-breathing dragon. Our faith enters it all, even if hanging by a thread. Our art is waiting to be born.
What good is my faith, if I can't bring all of Jesus (blood, sweat, tears and glory), to this life? My drawing near to God is not only for me. Oh it is, I need it more than ever, more than anyone. But my faith is not just for soothing my own soul. My faith is for me to rub elbows alongside you.
I don't know about you, but I need frequent trips to Signal Hill.
Also . . .
4.I am looking for wonderful hours.
After beginning the Game with Minutes, Laubach added what he called "windows", not just toward heaven, but toward human beings. These windows flung wide open to people he met on his paths everyday. I say maybe even as close as family. Let's not forget our own families.
Laubach tells this story in 1937,
On the boat from Manila last week was a painted woman alone. I spoke to her because she was lonesome. Three of the ships' officers nearby tittered as though they thought a scandal was brewing, so I talked loud enough for them to hear. I told her I was looking for God.
As naturally as a preacher she replied, " All the world is beautiful if we have eyes to see the beauty, for the world is packed with God."
When the dinner bell rang I said, "I am going about the world trying to find wonderful hours, and I shall remember this as one of them."
Sometimes I realize that in my hurrying I might miss wonderful hours. If I only have eyes for the next thing, the scheduled meeting, I might overlook the real thing.
I once saw a woman standing in a parking lot crying. I might not have seen her driving by on the way to take my boys to drum lessons across town, but I did and so I pulled over and asked her if she was alright. She told me through her tears that she had just left her dog at the vet and he was never coming home. She stood lost in the middle of a gravel lot alone in her grief, except for me, a stranger. I hugged her while she cried and the kids watched from the car window. When we parted, I continued on my way, the kids asking all kinds of questions about the woman I must know. I never saw her again.
I don't tell you this because I am wonderful. I only tell you this because I believe my appointment that day was with a woman I did not know in a parking lot across town at the precise moment she walked out of the veterinary office. I did not say a word about Jesus or faith or church, but for those few minutes, she was not alone. I was simply a human heart for her human heart and it was a wonderful hour.
Now, please know we don't have to drive across town to meet a perfect stranger or even cross the seas to find wonderful hours. The wonderful hours might be within the walls of our own home or the windows of our own car. We just have to slow down enough to recognize them and gather the courage to touch them.
If you're a hurried girl like me, maybe some of this will help you be unhurried: notice small, read a good book, play the game with minutes and watch for wonderful hours.