In January, I was the recipient of a great privilege: over three weeks of vacation and rest between my previous post at All Saints Church and my new post as rector at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in San Diego.
Normally, I like to be very busy, juggling multiple projects and seeing lots of people. And initially, I thought perhaps I should work during most of that time, completing more of my tasks at All Saints before moving to San Diego. Fortunately, my rector, Ed Bacon, encouraged me to take a long vacation.
I tried at first to schedule a retreat or trip, but after many attempts to make hasty arrangements with little notice, I realized that it was more trouble than it was worth. So I created a retreat of sorts at home, doing as little as possible.
My days consisted of rest, reading literature and spiritual texts, an occasional gathering with friends and church members, an occasional outing to a favorite place in Los Angeles or Pasadena, and not much else. I had to arrange a few things with my new church and my move to San Diego, but I intentionally kept myself to one or two To Do items per day.
I also practiced another new spiritual discipline: no multi-tasking. If I was eating, I didn’t read or watch TV. If I was watching TV, I did not post on Facebook. If I was hiking, I didn’t take my phone with me. If I was doing laundry, I didn’t cram other tasks between the washing and drying cycles.
The only other times when my life has been this simple and uncluttered have been times of great grief, when the family hunkered down and did very little except to try to get from moment to moment.
This was incredibly different from the days of grief because I chose to live simply to experience joy, not to cope with loss.
What I ended up experiencing was the God of Slow Time. I don’t mean a different God among a panoply of Gods. I mean that I truly and deeply encountered for a lengthy time the God who spoke to Elijah in the cave, the God who showed up to Mary the Mother of Jesus, the God who walked through the walls to speak to the hiding disciples. And why? Because I hunkered down like a disciple in hiding.
It wasn’t out of fear or the need to escape. At least, I wasn’t escaping any outside persecutors. But it certainly taught me how driven I had been by the demons of productivity, the legion of To Dos and Want To Dos and Should Dos in my head. They were a loud and clamoring throng, and the God of Slow Time cast them out.
The best news is that this clamoring throng did not come back when I returned to work, now as a rector at Good Samaritan. Oh, I have To Dos and Want To Dos and a few Should Dos, but they don’t drive me as they used to. I learned that a lot of those Should Dos were concoctions in my own head, not things that people actually needed or wanted from me–or at least not in the time frame I believed they wanted them.
I am acquainting myself with a new home, a new church, a new diocese, a new city, and yet I have not felt overwhelmed, but rather amazed that the legion of Do demons have not come back. They try now and then, but I push back with meditation or a long run or simple chores.
It has little to do with going from one job to another. I am busy in my new call, just as I was in my previous one, and while I have more autonomy in my new position, I still need to juggle between competing priorities and figure out what is the most pressing thing to do. I could easily be overwhelmed with busyness if I chose. However, those three weeks with the God of Slow Time, the God of the Cave taught me that I can reduce multi-tasking and guard myself from being possessed by devices and Do demons.
I have shared this experience with some church members who have been lifelong Doers and are frustrated with physical limitations of old age that keep them from doing what they used to do. They are praying people, and I have asked them whether it is possible that the God of Slow Time wishes to speak to them.
I’m pretty sure that the God of Slow Time wishes to speak to all of us, to gift us with Its Presence. I have learned that we don’t need a long vacation to hear Her.