“Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.” ~TS Eliot
I don’t regularly follow the traditions of the church calendar, so Ash Wednesday snuck in on the coat tails of the flu and strep throat as they bullied their way through my little people. Housebound with kids capable of doing nothing but watching tv and sleeping off their fevers, their illnesses gave me the opportunity to sit a bit between my pill-dispensing duties. I sat, but my thoughts moved about so much, I woke up this morning feeling exhausted.
As a writer, I sit a lot, but it’s a deceptive kind of sitting. My mind moves like a tilt-a-whirl, twirling and grasping for a thought, any thought that might be captured and put down in writing. I may have one worthwhile idea in a swarm of inconsequential ones. These worthless ones are the thoughts that threaten to take over–thoughts of dust bunnies, snacks for small group, filling the car with gas, or paper trails that need filing. It doesn’t allow much room for the thoughts that arrive like a soft slant of light in the motion and blur of the tilt-a-whirl.
You may not have as much sitting time, but I know you too dug into your pockets and pulled out crumpled tickets to hop on this ride. You too forget what it feels like to sit still with peace and hold longing. Your mind races with thoughts of no consequence, leaving no room for prayer or mindfulness or meditation. You see the slant of light, and your face inclines towards it, but you don’t know how to jump off the carnival ride to the bench sitting at the entrance, empty and waiting. The bench is for onlookers, those who appreciate the whirl of the ride, but know their place isn’t on it.
If we’re ever to warm our face in the glow of the slanted light, we need to learn how to steady our souls. We must turn off the grinding machine of our minds, and allow the stillness to teach us to both care and not to care. To care for the worthwhile thoughts and the quiet whisper of God’s Spirit. And not to care for the dust bunnies and paper trails and sink full of dirty dishes. A few days ago, I did manage a moment of stillness as I read aloud and prayed over the names of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, now martyrs for the cause of Christ. It was the truest thing I’ve done in days, in the middle of my own whirl of unimportant crazy.
This is the kind of truth I want to experience during this season of Lent. As I look toward the glow of the cross and the resurrection, I want God to teach me how to sit still in the darkness of this season, as he teaches me not to care about the trivial, and whispers hints of what is mine to care for and carry.
What would “teach us to sit still” look like in your life?