Thursday, February 19, 2015

Time and Work

This Lent I am using a resource provided by the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Mass.  Today’s meditation was on time and priorities.  When work was mentioned, it took me with it to a reflection on my life and work.  The speaker talked about time in five categories: stop, pray, work, play and love.  I realized that when I was working as a rector full time, I allowed my work to consume the disproportionately largest part of my time.  I even convinced myself that I was tending to the other areas within my life’s time as sub categories of work.  I stopped, but it was on a retreat whose time and cost was borne by the church.  I would pray, but on church time and fully justified.  I would play, but most often with church people and in the context of a church program.  I loved others and most of those others were members of the parish.  After all, isn’t one of the job descriptions of a rector: “a professional lover of the people of God.”

Now time is reordering itself in a new stage of life and a new context.  Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and we had the church service.  But I am also taking time to pray at home on my own time.  Not work related.  In two weeks I will make a silent retreat at Holy Cross in West Park, NY.  But this year it is on my own dime and for no particular “professional” purpose.  I hope to listen to what God is saying about my life now in my new setting and circumstances, much of which are not necessarily focused on parish life.  Not work related.  This morning Judy and I “walked” across the river, using our new snow shoes.  The woods were white and silent and the snow was many feet deep with a new half foot of powder overnight.  This play is spiritual in nature, and “in nature”.  Not work related.  And the relationships of my life are spreading across new boundaries of community, family, history and geography.  Not work related.

I realized only too well how aptly the SSJE meditation applied to my life of work.  “Many of us have a disordered relationship to time and work, and work drives us and consumes our time in ways that we experience as unhealthy and unwholesome.”

Although I am coming to this new awareness in the context of “retirement” I know it needn’t have waited.  I could have been better at balancing out the life and time God has given me.  That balance can mitigate against unnecessary burnout.  We clergy often think of our work as so very essential that no excess of it can be a source of complaint since it is all so very holy.  But holiness includes wholeness and that holistic way of living inevitably involves limits, boundaries and balance in addition to self forgetting and passionate commitment.  I wish I knew then what I know now.  But all we have is now.

1 comment:

  1. Your musings bring to mind one of my favorite lyrics: "Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."