I spent the last 72 hours tucked away in a retreat center in the woods. No Facebook. No news. Not much awareness of what was happening in the world.
Some might say I was practicing avoidance or escapism. I say I was saving my sanity.
All weekend long, the spiritual directors at the retreat center kept counseling us "to linger." Which meant that after a song or time of prayer, we would stand still a little longer, be quiet a few minutes more, center ourselves with intentionality, and ponder the fact that -- despite everything -- the world was still a beautiful place.
If you've read The Happiness Dare, you know that I am not a naturally good lingerer. Maybe you aren't either. For a moment, consider:
1 - how quickly we race from our "quiet time" to the tasks before us.
2 - how fast we move from one task to the next without celebrating accomplishments.
3 - how quickly you brush off a compliment instead of letting yourself linger long enough to internalize kind words.
4 - how you will spend hours preparing Thanksgiving dinner, only to sit down for 15 minutes to consume it all before promptly rising from the table to clear the mess.
We are addicted to hustle, deadlines, speaking before we think, clock-watching, and constant movement.
We are unsure how to live in kairos time -- that big-picture awareness of eternity where time stands still.
Outside of kairos, we miss the wonder of God, who is still here, still working, still setting things to rights.
I am home now. This morning, I lingered over God's Word. Staying in kairos felt like a physical battle as much as a spiritual one. After three days away, I'm way behind with my work. Furthermore, I was deeply grieved by some of the latest news developments. I had this annoying itch to add my voice to the mix, as if the world had been waiting to hear what I had to say while I was tucked away. (In fact, it had not.)
Instead, I lingered longer, while flames flickered in the fireplace. I propped my feet on the coffee table and leaned back into the cushions. My Bible stayed open to John 6, and here's why:
In the story, a bunch of Jesus' disciples deserted him after he delivered a hard teaching.
Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked them this: "You do not want to leave too, do you?"
And Peter responded with these words. "To whom would we go?"
Indeed. Where else do any of us go right now?
My hope is not in my hustle. My hope is not in my opinions. My hope is not in a president or a platform or a political promise. (In the interest of full disclosure, I voted for third-party candidate Evan McMullin. That was the choice that most closely aligned with my personal convictions after much prayer. I realize that my vote puts me in a separate camp from almost everyone reading these words, including my own family and my neighbors, who also prayed and voted based on their convictions. In my rural county, I was one of only 33 people to vote for Mr. McMullin.)
Like Peter, I ask myself: "To whom shall I go now?" The answer is the same as it always was: Not to my candidate of choice. Not to my productivity or hustle. Not to my tendency to control outcomes. But to Jesus alone.
I choose to linger with Jesus. This is what is saving me, people. You won't find me making big pronouncements here or on my social-media channels -- though I am having hard conversations among my own people, believe me. I don't mind if you take your protest or your celebration public. You are smart people, and I trust that you will choose your words wisely. But I can't do it. Not right now.
I will continue to do what I have always done -- gather people at the foot of the cross. And I will linger. I will cherish my Christ. I will make my Thanksgiving dinner, and sit down long enough to taste the food. I will linger over the kind words that someone texted me this morning. I will linger over the good work I will accomplish this week. I will linger over the laughter I shared with new friends this weekend. I will linger in prayer. I will linger in kairos.
I will sit in the presence of Christ, and I will remember that despite everything, it's still a beautiful world.
"Life will hand you lemons, someone once said. And that it will. It will hand you lemons and scars and broken engagements and cancer and dandruff and orthodontia. Some of us will lose our keys, some of us will lose our hair, some of us will lose our kids at Target—and we’ll all lose our ever-lovin’ minds before this ride is over. There’s no way around the lemons. Jesus said so: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
Yeah, life will hand you lemons. But life will also hand you honey. And it will hand you hammocks and Netflix and queso and scarlet-red lipstick. It will hand you stolen kisses, newborn babies, peppermint candy, Silly String, elastic waistbands, clean sheets, a husband’s forgiveness, and a candle in the sanctuary on Christmas Eve. It will smell like a campfire and taste like triple-fudge ice cream.
There’s happiness right where we are. God is daring us to stalk it. Sometimes it shows up small. But it’s important that we look, because some days the looking will save us."
~ From The Happiness Dare
Your Turn: When was the last time you lingered in a happy thought, a moment of awe?
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