Written by Beau Butaud
My wife, Bonnie, loves to ask questions and asked me the other day if I had yet grown tired of being cooped up at home.
“Nope,” I replied.
She asked me how long it would take.
“I don’t know, probably at least a few more months.”
She was dumbfounded, and had trouble believing I wasn’t dying to get out of the house, start seeing people again, engage in our typical feverish activities, go out to restaurants, etc. But, no; if anything, I feel as though I’ve only just been able to take my first deep breath, gather my wits about me, and start to think.
The stay-at-home order provided welcome relief from the schedule that I always allow myself to over-fill. In fact, there is so much that I want to do during this down-time, that I fear the nearness of the prospective dates for re-opening will not allow me time to accomplish a good chunk of it. I have a bit of guilt over it (am I relishing in tranquility caused by the suffering of many?), and I would like to learn better how to mourn, and lament. But if I am honest, I have been enjoying it.
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy people. I even enjoy spending time with them, occasionally. *Wink*. But, like a good people-pleasing Seattleite, I have trouble saying no and fail to protect my schedule. I fail to realize the absolute necessity of reserving time for solitude. I fill that schedule with an inordinate amount of work, an unending stream of social events, spontaneous and empty diversions, until all that’s left for sober reflection is the very last of my feeble will.
Perhaps that’s why God asks for our first fruits – because he knows that if we save the last for him, there’s not going to be much to give.
The current pause on society and economy has forced interruption of my merry-go-round of personal industry. It has forced me to examine my habits, take a breath, and ask: what am I accomplishing with the way I’m living?
I believe that solitude, contemplation, and meditation are not merely for the introvert; these practices are for the Christian. They are for all who realize that “the appointed time has grown very short,” and that “the days are evil.” They are for all who realize that the opposite of the contemplative life is the reactive life. It is an evil common to mankind that he grows quickly distracted and easily forgets his way. That is why even the God-man, Jesus, felt great necessity to be alone and to pray.
Since this shelter-in-place hit, I have taken the opportunity to reflect, to take walks, to wake up at the same time (mostly) each day and practice devotions. I went on a solitary retreat, and have come away with a great many conclusions. They may not be yours, and I may not have “arrived.” But I feel more sure that I’m moving closer toward the truth.
I have long been fashioning an idol of personal ambition; but today I began to enjoy simpler vocations: dish-washer, garden-weeder, wood-chopper, closet-cleaner, trash-taker, board-game player, honey-doer, neighbor-chatter. To the same degree as commercial excellence, these are my callings. I have noticed how infrequently I look to my God as my stronghold; this month I began to seek more regular refuge in him, from even such innocuous enemies as anxiety or boredom. At the thought of becoming a father, I have often dreaded the impingement on my personal freedoms. Recently, I looked the cost of that undertaking in the eye but considered also its worth. I held up my method of making decisions against the light of scripture and found the answers more liberating than I could have imagined.
I urge you, friend: take a moment to sit in boredom, to walk, to think, to pray.