Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Present to the Moment: Addressing Inner Drivenness

Gooseberry Falls

Unless the Lord builds the house,
  its builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city
  the watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early
  and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat –
  for he grants sleep to those he loves.
  -Psalm 127:1-2

In order to be present to God in the present moment, we must step back from much of our frenetic pace of life. When we try to step off the merry-go-round, however, we begin to find out just how difficult that is! Our attempts to slow down will always fail unless we address our inner drivenness and the anxiety that fuels it.

We are anxious about so many things—our finances, our health, our security, our family, our friends, our future. Many are afraid of failing; others are afraid of success! When we monitor the thoughts in the back of our minds, we find that far too many of them dwell on worry.

Jesus knew that, which is why he said: “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . And why do you worry about your clothes? See how the lilies of the field brow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like on the these. . . . So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we eat?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father know that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

Jesus gets to the root of the matter: our anxious thoughts and hearts. We are afraid that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one will. Certainly we have responsibility, but our fears drive us to do much more.

Resting in the Goodness of our Shepherd
For good reason Scripture refers to us as sheep. On our own we are helpless. We tend to get ourselves lost very quickly. We go about nervously “Bah-ing” for help unless we have someone to take care of us.

As an anxious, pathetic sheep—more often than I’d like to admit—I need to continually entrust my life to the Good Shepherd. The more I can see the Lord as my active, present Shepherd, the more I can begin to relax inside. I don’t need to be the one to take care of myself. He knows where the next green pasture for me is—I don’t!

“The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep … I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me.” (John 10)

In a beautiful sermon on this passage from John 10, Johannes Tauler invites us to become trusting sheep. For those who abandon their lives to the Lord, “The doorkeeper opens for them and lets them go completely into the Father’s unfathomable depths. There they go everywhere in and out, always finding plentiful pasture. They sink into the depths of the Godhead with inexpressible enjoyment and then go out full of love. . . . There work and rest become one.” [1]

Work and Rest Become One
At times I have experienced work and rest becoming one—it is wonderful! Although I am working hard, I am so much at peace within. Mentally I am fully present to the task at hand. Instead of wondering if I’m doing the job right or what others will think, I am simply at rest. Knowing that I am being obedient to the Lord in my task at hand—and knowing that he is pleased with me—I leave the results up to him.

[1] Johannes Tauler Predigten: Vollständige Ausgabe, edited by Georg Hofmann (Freiburg: Herder, 1961), sermon 27.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

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