Rev. Kit warned me, as a fellow New Englander, that one of the strangest things about becoming a Californian would be adjusting to the subtleness of the seasons. I am used to getting strong external cues for when it is time to work, time to play, time to rest. Thunderstorms that turn off the electricity, heat waves and subzero cold snaps all know how to effortlessly draw us to stillness.
But what to do when the weather is totally cooperative year round, suitable for anything: ice cream, hiking, swimming, and of course: working, working, working? How do I know when to dig in and when to knock off? How do I get permission to rest from my labors, or motivation to buckle down when the tremendous natural beauty around me is calling me to enjoy it nonstop?
I’m still learning California and particularly Bay Area culture, but it seems to me a lot of folks experience twin urges both to work really hard and play really hard. There is just more of everything around here: commuting, creating, striving, wining and dining. Californians even meditate hard.
For a while in our culture there was a lot of talk about balance, particularly “work/life balance.” Self-care was the new must-have accessory. But this new jargon just felt like one more way to fail at being a modern working person, especially a working parent. I never really could get the hang of “balance,” always a little off-kilter, pell-mell, and falling out of Tree pose in yoga.
The Bible doesn’t talk about balance. Instead, the Bible and its agrarian outlook gives us models for rhythms, for seasons: calling us to attend to the signs, internal and external, to sow or reap, work or sabbath. It starts in first chapter of Genesis when God, ever the role model, created for six days, and ended with a long rest on the seventh day.
And even in the midst of working, God paused to delight in what God was creating — “That’s SO good! What a whale! That ocean goes on for days! How about them fruit trees?” The work itself was delightful to God, blending seamlessly into the rest and the play.
Today, I’m so grateful to serve a church peopled by folks who delight so much in Creation, who post their holy hikes on Facebook, who commune with Nature in the most sacramental sense of that verb.
I’m so grateful for committees that take summer sabbaths, knowing the work is not going anywhere, and grateful to those who are so attentive to the health of the church that they are at insurance subcommittee meetings at 6 pm on a Friday.
I invite us all more deeply into the divine urgings to work, rest and play in seamless transition, as God, who sometimes uses power outages and heat waves, and sometimes subtler inducements, like urban blackberry patches or a single arresting sunset, to pause us from our labors.