By Eva Englert-Jessen
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes struggle to be present. With all the activities that life brings, and in a society that rewards efficiency, individual accomplishment, and achievement, it can become all too easy to slip into a pattern of crossing off checklists and pressing forward to the next task on the list. I notice this in myself especially during times of transition (which I’ve had a lot of recently, speaking personally), when there is a lot of change or ramping up happening in several different areas of my life. Perhaps some of you are experiencing this now, too, as the rhythms of a new school year get going, or as you tend to a grief or change in your family, or as you support or process all that the recent natural disasters have brought to our world. Sometimes I cope with lots of change and new activity by trying to get on top of it all-- to outsmart or out-strategize it with lots of action plans.
Don’t get me wrong: there are obvious times and places in our daily lives when focus, goal-setting, strategy and accomplishment are worthy and necessary. Indeed, part of what I think makes a church relevant and impactful is its action in the world, rooted in love of self and neighbor through Christ. But I think when we get so tunnel-visioned on life as a checklist, or a series of activities to get through, we forget so much of who we are at an even more elemental level.
We forget that we are human beings (not “human doings,” as I heard a seminary friend say), created out of holy dust and who breathe, move, who have eyes to see beyond our screens and our lists. We forget that we are part of God’s broader cosmic creation, which includes even the ants and mice and those critters we commonly view as pests--and by extension we forget our link with all human beings, including those we’d rather not associate with. We forget to be awake with our children's silliness and curiosity. We become numb to hard or seemingly inconvenient questions that our faith implores us to ask and respond to. And we forget to link the stories of our individual lives with the lives around us.
What reminds you to pause in the midst of frenzy? What reminds you that there is actually enough time, that it does not all have to get done today, that it’s even okay to say no sometimes- or to have our kids say no sometimes? What reminds you that you are a living, breathing body that can laugh, cry, and be creative? For me, it’s digging in the dirt and planting green things, for one. I pray that a moment of remembering might happen for you this week. Do that thing that reminds you of your belovedness, and your beloved, beautiful messy humanity.
Speaking of linking stories, I want to close with an idea. In my work and conversations with our KPUMC youth and the United Methodist Women group last week, I’ve been musing on the possibilities for KPUMC to create more intergenerational spaces beyond our existing Wednesday night dinner and Sunday morning worship. I hear our youth share about what life is like for them as young people seeking meaning and connection in the world, as students and athletes and dreamers. And I hear the stories of some of the backbones of our KPUMC community, like the UMW, share decades of church history. What would it look like to put these two communities together in an intentional way-- to share stories, questions, and even respond to each others’ generational misconceptions? I’d love to see something like this happen, perhaps even as early as this fall. Let me know if you’d like to be a part and put something together.
Prayers for wonder and connection in the midst of life.