What does it mean to breathe? I am often asked of my plans are for my sabbatical. My first answer is usually that I need to take the time to breathe. While I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it is, in fact, a significant goal. We have just passed through federal and state accreditation reports and visits. Along with teaching and my Associate Department Chair role, my work load has appeared overflowing. I have not felt the time to breathe. And so, along with my official call to launch my scholarly life, I have been working at taking the time to breathe.
Turns out, I am not very good at it. With the day ahead of me wide open to my own scheduling, I feel the same habitual tightening of tension within. Too much to do in too little a time. Too much? I have to walk up to the coffee shop to spend 60 minutes writing. Then I walk home. I get my 10,000 steps in daily. The work on my teardrop trailer is going well. So I spend some time at that. I work on my reading list. I try to get after some of house cleaning – with only limited success – not enough time (sigh). How can I fail at practicing relaxation?
A pastor of ours shared a story of a hard-driven American businessman on an African safari. He hired a group of local villagers to carry his load. They were sturdy and strong. The businessman was pleased with the phenomenal time they were making. He realized if they were able to keep this pace up, he could finish early enabling him to close a lucrative business deal that would assure him of impressive profits. He drove everyone harder. One morning he woke to the quiet that comes with a camp at rest. His sturdy workers were all quietly sitting in a circle. No matter what he did to cajole them, they continued to sit.
He implored the leader of the group. “I can’t get these men going. They have been such hard workers and now all they do is sit! What is going on?”
The leader replied in a matter-of-fact way as if stating the obvious, “We have been going so fast and so hard, our souls have been left behind. We must sit and wait for our souls to catch up.”
I don’t mean to suggest I have been – or am able to – perform the kind of labor the men in this story did, but it speaks to me. I think we can too easily get caught up in the busyness of our days, we forget to take the time to rest, to simply breathe, and let our souls stay caught up with us. I’m working on it.