Putting Myself in Time Out


It’s been a rough week: church people dying and having serious surgery, an email from Ollie’s teacher every damn day about his disruptive behavior, the continued stress of trying to get pregnant. By last night, I couldn’t hold in the grouch anymore, and poor Marrett came to bed silent and tentative, not wanting to draw any more of my fire.

So, this morning, after cleaning the house before the cleaning lady comes and ensuring that I don’t look as awful as I feel when coming to work, I put myself in time out.

There’s a worship space in one of the classrooms at church, with a small table, candle and cross. I parked myself in front of it, lighting that focusing flame, and opened my bible. My focus scripture for this morning (maybe more?) was this:

 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. (I Corinthians 2:2 NLT)

Knowing Paul to be a more disciplined person than myself, I resolved to try for 20 minutes to forget everything except Christ crucified. Setting my timer, I took a deep breath and entered this self-imposed exile. “Jesus, let me forget everything but you”.

I made it through exactly 3 deep breaths before I remembered 5 things that needed adding to my to do list. I breathed again and felt the weight of this week’s failure descend upon me, taking my focus from Christ crucified to self-flagellation. I drew breath again, this time shakily as tears threatened, and filled the busyness in my head with a mantra. “Christ crucified, Christ crucified, Christ crucified.”

The next 10 minutes passed so slowly that I was sure they must be 20 and took a peek at the time. 5:03…5:02…5:01. Not done yet. Breathing again, I stayed where I was and waited it out. And when the chimes finally rang, I felt nothing but relief. Clearly it is my own racing mind and wandering heart that need crucifixion so I can focus on Jesus alone.

I was reminded at a leadership class yesterday that I am powerless to make myself into the leader God calls me to be. Our presenter Deb Stehlin said “The mystery and paradox of [leading from the soul] is that you can’t do it by yourself. You can’t manufacture this type of leadership, it is created in us by the work of the Holy Spirit. The best we can do is create the conditions for the Spirit to do her work.”

This morning’s attempt to create those conditions was only slightly successful. However, I’m convinced the spiritual leadership is like good musicianship or athletic performance: you practice your way into it. Putting myself in time out is one way I can open space for the Spirit to speak into my cluttered life. My silent desperation is one of the places Jesus works best, even if it is painful to sit in it.

So tomorrow I will try again. I will sit and light a candle in hope that my silence will grow more restful and grounding. I will trust that by trying to forget everything but Christ crucified I will more easily remember who I am meant to be.



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