In the 21st Century, you don’t have to be a doctor to be on call.
We are all now on call all of the time. I’m not old enough to know for certain, but I’m told by some people, that a time existed when people could go home. And be at home. You could clock out, disconnect, leave.
Let’s call this time P/I, or pre-Internet. Now surely, there have always been people who were always on the clock. They were the first with beepers, pagers, a red phone or a driver standing by. But that’s not been most people. Now everyone is on call.
Now we all have electronic tethers. And most of the time, I love the connection it provides – e-mail, blogs, Skype, Facetime, and Facebook, help me stay connected to friends both near and far. But more and more all of this restrains us from facing the fact that we are little more than leashed to a desk or a client, a project or a need. We are always available – whether the needs are important or not. Little by little, the constant drip of ever-present connection reminds us that we are always on call. All of us. All the time.
There is always someone, somewhere that wants our attention. And it’s not always work or volunteering that demands our deliberations. There are projects, both at work and elsewhere, that need advancement or completion.
Life is budgets, bills, leaking faucets, running toilets, sick children and even well-children constantly and lovingly wanting us to fill the bottomless-pit of playtime. There are dishes in the sink and laundry, which unlike checking accounts, stubbornly piles up until it overflows.
Our virtual leashes and self-imposed busyness made us a sly promise. The promises that if we keep up; if we can keep it all together, corral life, pin it down or choke it into submission then we’d have life on a downhill pull. Somehow we’d be able to convince ourselves that we’d crossed the line into whatever it is we thought wholeness or adulthood or maturity should be.
So we keep racing. We keep working. Keep digging. But most of all we just keep busy. In fact, busy is now a status symbol.
“How are things going?”
“Man, I’m busy.”
“How are things at work?”
“Busy. So busy.”
“Things going well with the family?”
“We’re in a really busy time.”
Someone sold us a bill of goods, that if we were busy, if we were on the run, then people might believe we were important. Maybe we could convince ourselves that we were important. The bill of goods sold us hinted that if we got busy and stayed busy, then we’d find some illusive meaning, but you know what we feel instead?
Tired. Worn out. Unavailable to the people near us.
This, however, is far from the life God intended.
In John 10, Jesus makes an audacious promise. He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)
If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen one too many television commercials to easily believe big claims. Everything is new and improved, the best yet, a can’t-live-without product.
So, it’s no wonder that chasing the hectic, fast-moving, keep-up-with-the-Joneses pace seems just as worthwhile an option as anything else.
But could it be that all the while we are logged-in we are really checked out.
What if, we’ve been going about this all wrong? What if all the movement and motion is an illusion? It may be an unusual suspect, but what if part of what the thief does is burglarize our ability to be still?
Just be still. Sit there. To enjoy where it is we are and trust God is there with us.
There’s a hitch, though. When we think of people sitting, we usual assume they’re lazy. The go-getters are up at 5am, grinding, creating, producing and the sitters seem to just be, well, sitting. I’m sure sitting is what some folks are doing, but there may be some who are doing something else.
Maybe some people who are sitting are really listening.
In a way foreign to so many of us; some sitters are on call, too.
In the early days of the Christian church there were a group of men who retreated from the cities into the dry lands. They’re called the “Desert Fathers.” Some people think the Desert Fathers practiced a form of escapism from the world, but that’s not really accurate. They went into the desert, they retreated to monasteries to do battle with the Satan.
We don’t think like that anymore, it seems.
We think, as our electronic connections betray, that all acting is action.
But what about stillness?
Flipping around the pages of scriptures, you see God moving in big ways, with mighty motions – pillars of fire, truckloads of plagues, miraculous births, and early morning resurrections. In a all-to-mundane world, we need to see transfigurations and blind men relieve sight.
But that’s not the only way we see God move.
There are also, still small voices, Kings confronted quietly and confidentially by prophets; There was a prophetess named Huldah whose life of study, a life spent tucked away in archives and libraries reignited passion for God among a people who had lost there way, and there were unanswered prayers in the gardens.
Small things. Quiet things. The alone kind of things.
Perhaps, many of us who are looking for God; looking for peace; looking for comfort should be still. There is a famous passage of scripture from The prophet Habakkuk. In English the words are, “But the Lord in is his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!”
I like that. That sounds nice, doesn’t it. “Keep silence.”
If you were to read Habakkuk in Hebrew, it’d be a little different. It says, “The Lord is in his holy temple. Shut up.”
Habakkuk reminds us that sometimes, living with connection to God means slowing, quieting oneself, being still. Unplug. Disconnect. Listen.
And our problem isn’t new. The Psalmist saw the same things and reminds us to “Be still…and know.”
There is a story about a Protestant Pastor who had returned from a visit to a monastery. He confessed to his son that he did not understand how monks could spend hours and hours in silence before God. His son, whose wife had just given birth to their first child, responded “You know, Dad, I think I understand. Since our newborn arrived, I just go to her crib and look at her. She doesn’t have to do a thing, she doesn’t even have to be awake. I am so utterly fascinated that I don’t know where the time goes.”
I want to think of God that way. That just looking at God would be utterly fascinating. What about you?