I have been practicing the hours, seven pauses throughout the day to recenter and become aware of God with me always. My attempt at this practice has left much to be desired and yet still the little I have done turns my face to Jesus and brings peace to busy days.
Macrina Wiederkehr, author of Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day, calls the pauses seven awakenings throughout the day. Likening the hours to waking up multiple times a day gave me insight into why it is so hard to practice them. I hate waking up. Waking up is pretty much the worst part of the day so why would I put myself through that seven times every day?
And more importantly, why don’t I want to wake up?
Maybe a better question is, why do I want to stay asleep? Pausing to lift up my head throughout the day wakes me up to my numbness. It makes me come face to face with my inability to slow down and see the people in front of me. Waking up requires me to confront the way I use people as cogs in my production wheel and items on my agenda. I’d rather keep my eyes closed to that, thank you very much.
Pausing every three hours feels so excessive to me. Screeching my momentum to a halt feels so wasteful, luxurious on one hand, and terribly inefficient and disruptive on the other. During this season I’ve become so aware (one could even say, awakened to) the drive that courses in my veins as pure energy. It motivates how I walk. It comes out in the speed of my speech. It even keeps me from stopping to go to the bathroom, taking advantage of every second to accomplish the next thing. Pausing to read a scripture and take a deep breath feels completely out of place in my day. I don’t want to wake up to my inability to slow down.
Especially, because now I am a pastor. I suppose I thought some sort of contemplative mantel would fall on me once I was installed but that miracle has not occurred. Quite the opposite is true. My pace has amped up ten times. And so has my need to hear from the Lord and walk by his Spirit. The only way to do that is to be awake.
There is a lot of talk about being awake relating to one’s willingness to acknowledge injustice, to reflect on one’s complicity in systems of injustice. As I struggle to slow down and pause throughout the day, I am aware of my propensity for sleepwalking. Waking up to the reality that I have benefitted from systems used to oppress others is a jolt. And it requires not just opening my eyes, but changing how I live: how I shop, how I interact with others, how I talk about others, how I vote, what I invest my service in, who I learn from and listen to.
Waking up over and over again through new learnings, new conversations, deeper relationships, and new insights, requires an energy and humility only fueled by the rest, by the pause, by the turning of my face to Jesus, who is the truth and invites us to be fully awake, fully alive, not bound by truth but set free by it.
As tempting as it can be, ignorance is not bliss. Numbness is not living. And ignorance and numbness are not neutral. They impact my own heart and the world around me. So I have to wake up- multiple times a day. I have to be awake to God’s love for me to live with a whole heart. I need to wake up to the leading of the Holy Spirit every second. My eyes must be opened to the person in front of me at any given moment in a day. I cannot afford to stay asleep and blind to the things that keep me from hearing, seeing, and obeying Jesus and loving my neighbor. And I have to look at how my privilege and power perpetuate oppression of others if any of us are going to be free.
So now the pauses offer me seven opportunities a day to wake up. The question is not, “Do I have time to stop and pause?” The question is, “Can my soul afford not to pause?” And zooming out broader, “What does my slumber cost the world?”
I choose to embrace the invitation to wake up seven times a day. I will practice again tomorrow.