The Awakened Heart - Idleness

The Awakened Heart
By Gerald G. May

This is week three of my reflections on Gerald May's book, The Awakened Heart: Opening to the Love you Need. I continue to read this reflectively, slowly, underlining, pausing, musing. This book, really, is about how to live in the present moment. And one of the invitations is to notice how busy we make ourselves to avoid being present in some moments because in those moments we feel alone or empty or always behind and/or missing out.

When we are most susceptible to enter spaciousness is in those just-before-falling-asleep moments. Unfortunately, in the quiet of the moment, it seems that every existential question ever posed enters stage left and takes it's cue on the stage of your cranial cavity. Sometimes facing those moments about purpose and meaning of life are too scary...so we choose to dull or overextend ourselves to eradicate having to face the bigger questions of who we are in the world and how we may not be "measuring up." May writes:

"It is an addiction of the first order that we feel we must always be filling up our spaces" (97).
"We have been so conditioned by efficiency that [spacious, idle] times feel unproductive, irresponsible, lazy, and even selfish. We know we need rest, but we can no longer see the value of rest as an end in itself; it is only worthwhile if it helps us recharge our batteries so we can be more efficient in the next period of productivity...God did not take a rest so that he could recoup energy to begin creating another universe during the next workweek. Resting was valuable in it's own right. Spaciousness was holy." (94-95).

Even the Hebrew word for "salvation" refers to a spaciousness - it is a "freedom from restriction" (compulsions, preoccupation, drivenness, oppression) which leads to a more expansive space.

"God is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious (broad, ample) place free from restriction (cramping, confinement)... (Job 36.16a)

SELAH: Do you have distress in your life? How might God want to woo you from it toward a more spacious place free from restriction?

So, the question becomes - what is missing when we have to not only force our pauses but also feel we have to justify them? 

"Something is amiss when wasting time is something we have to be ashamed of, when we must ask a 'quiet' person, 'What's wrong?'... Our capacity to be easeful with inactivity has been thrown away and forgotten..." (96).

May invites us to realign our attitudes toward "emptiness" - what if, instead of having conversations in the church foyer and over coffee about how incredibly busy we are, THIS conversation became more commonplace?

"Hey Joe - whatcha up to these days?"

"Oh hey Frank - actually, not much. Things are really idle...and we're enjoying the wide margins."

"Cool - us too. We were just wasting some great time together as a family last week and it was so rejuvenating. Hey - why don't you come over and linger with us on our front porch tonight. We'll just sip some chianti and shoot the breeze, watch the sunset."

"Sounds great - we don't have anything else slated for our day. "

A girl can dream...


For reFlection

  • How are you when you have nothing to do?
  • When you have a moment of freedom, what do you do with it?
  • In what ways do you "justified" your idleness or rest? To whom do you feel you need to justify it?
  • Listen in for any invitations by God as you're present with how you are with "nothingness."