Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Starting Over or Starting Again

The last few weeks seem to have been nonstop. Aside from a week of vacation (in Maui, very relaxing) I’ve been on the go. This morning as I paused to do my devotion (a far too rare event in recent weeks), I got hit with a stark realization. It felt as though I had suddenly regained consciousness, as if I’d been walking around unconscious for a number of weeks. This was a powerful image. It reminded me of the insidious nature of a life that becomes too busy and unbalanced. It was troubling for me to realize that all of the progress that I’d made, to that point, in having my time with God be intentional and sacrosanct crumbled (if only temporarily) in the onslaught of a too-busy life. It was a time of lament as I came to terms with the things in my life that edged God out of the center.

While I have spent a fair amount of time today mulling over the last few weeks, I’ve not wallowed in feelings of guilt. God poured out grace. In times past when I’ve gone through this cycle of attention and lack of attention I’ve often been left with the feeling of starting over. I’ve had times when I felt like I had to start over, from square one, after this period of inattention to my spirit. This feeling would often inspire a fair amount of guilt. Worse still, I’d feel pretty stupid for feeling like I was having to go back and learn lessons and do things that I’d done many times before. The double-whammy in this is it has often taken me longer to reengage in my devotional practices because I didn’t want to confront the feelings of guilt and stupidity that came with thinking that I had to start over.

I sense that my feelings are probably not unique. I don’t know too many people who relish the idea of constantly starting over. I suspect that it is not in our nature to run in small circles in our life. I don’t know too many people who embrace the idea of living in a “habi-trail”…you know those small tanks with tunnels and wheels that make up the domesticated habitat of mice and other small rodents.

The gift that God gave me this morning is that this regaining of consciousness doesn’t mean that I’m starting over. I’m simply starting again. Semantics? I suppose you could make that argument; however I don’t think so. To say that I’m starting over suggests that everything that I’ve experienced in my life with God, all the things that I’ve shared in this blog had somehow reached an expiration date because they lay fallow for a season. Furthermore, this would suggest that the Spirit’s work in my life was somehow not eternal but temporal and unable to withstand action or inaction. It might even suggest that during the times that I might become too distracted to pay attention to my ongoing life with God that God takes a vacation from me. I just can’t buy that.

No, I believe that I’m starting again…Dusting off the pieces and picking up where I left off. The pieces might be a little dull. A few of the pieces might need a little oil. One or two may not fit well because they’re a little parched. But, all the pieces are still there. In fact, if I’m truly paying attention, I may reflect on the causes and nature of this “season away” and discover that there are things to learn that might help me prevent or get on track more quickly from these times of inattention. Who knows…upon reflection I will very likely discover that even though I may not have been diligently paying attention to God, I’ll be shown the evidence that God was paying attention to me. That is my hope.