Seven is my personal best, a carefully selected stone, just the right amount of spin and force to send it bouncing across the surface of the lake, seven ripples, seven bounces, then gone.
Childhood holidays to the beach often included several hours searching out the roundest flattest pebble to “skim” across the surface.
I wonder how many of us spend our lives skimming across the surface?
Keeping so busy that we bounce from one interaction to the next can be a “defence mechanism” that prevents us from growing up spiritually and emotionally. It’s a way of avoiding parts of life that stir up anxiety or suggest pain. It can work for a while, but eventually it catches up with us, and there’s always a price to pay.
“Skimming” can produce the impression that everything is covered – but in reality, you aren’t completely there. You’re covering ground superficially without being fully engaged.
Skimming with God
Building any relationship requires spending time with the other person, it is no different with God. Are we so busy doing for God that we don’t spend any time being with God?
A daily quite time can be great but it often becomes utilitarian. Time spent studying, acquiring more information that we can put to use. Praying for others is a valuable practise, but can easily turn into ‘work’ as we ‘intercede’ for others.
The monastic tradition of the daily office is subtly different. It can involve prayer and reading the bible or not, but more importantly it involves pausing for a few minutes several times a day to become aware of the presence of God, who is with us always.
Skimming with ourselves
Most of us are overscheduled and preoccupied; we are starved for time, exhausted from the endless needs around us. Who has time to enjoy our spouses company, our children, life itself?
We assume we’ll catch up on our sleep some other time. The space we need for replenishing our soul and relaxing can happen later. Few of us have time for fun and hobbies. There is simply too much work to be done.
Bernard of Clairvaux, like Augustine before him, recognized that mature love does not exist without a basis of self-love. Unless we know what it is to care for ourselves, we can’t love others well. Only in light of the love of God can we love ourselves rightly. Bernard even argued that love of self for God’s sake is the highest form of loving God.
So why not accept God’s invitation to Sabbath, to stop, rest, delight, and contemplate him. Build time into your day for the ancient monastic practise of pottering. Time spent when nothing measurable is accomplished. It is, by the world’s standards, inefficient, unproductive, and useless. Yet is one of the most fundamental elements given to us by God that we might take care of ourselves.
Skimming in marriage
If you are married, your vocation is your spouse first, and any children God has given you. This covenant takes priority over our church and people.
Paul refers to marriage as a foreshadowing of Christ’s union with his ‘bride’, the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). For this reason our marriages are meant to proclaim and reflect our union with Christ. Marriage is to be a picture, and experience, of receiving and giving the love of God.
These are just some of the themes we are going to be exploring in the Autumn as we begin to think together about what an emotionally healthy Christian faith might look like. Starting with the premise that you can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature, I hope it will be a chance for us to stop skimming, slow down together and explore some of the deep places and traditions that can so enrich our lives, individually and together.
You can see more here: http://vimeo.com/45517576
I hope those of you who are having some kind of holiday over August find plenty of time to do nothing, other than invest in the relationships that matter, with God, with yourself and with those you love.
God bless you,