Friday, April 21, 2017

The Relentless Now

I had a revelation this morning, I even had it before I had any coffee which in my mind makes it significant.
In just under five hours I'm leaving with a group of amazing women for The Gallery Covenant Church's annual women's retreat.  We will be going away for about 40 hours of time together and yet time away.  We will be eating together, laughing, worshipping, praying, and hopefully finding honest glimpses of the real people we do community with each week.

I am taking on a Saturday breakaway session.  I am talking about the idea of being present in our ordinary, every day lives.  It's a topic I am passionate about and believe strongly in.  I even preached a sermon about it before leaving the Pacific NorthWest to move to Minnesota.

But this morning I stood in my kitchen trying to catch my breath, literally, from an onslaught of emotion and exhaustion.  As the water boiled for coffee and used it's broken whistle to call me to attention, my youngest ran into the kitchen to tell me he was still hungry despite not finishing what I just gave him.  Also he had smashed bananas on his freezing cold hands which were promptly smeared down my previously banana-free legs, and just like that I was snapped back to the now.

I couldn't help but think over the last few weeks how I was going to teach anything about being present when I don't think I've had a solitary thought to myself in at last three weeks.  We've been plagued with illness and injury and death and taxes and in all of it, I am due with our third baby boy in 19 days.  I have responded to emails and text messages days after they were sent and I've lost my cool with the two little people who are nothing short of my heart walking around outside my body.

Shauna Niequist is an author I like a lot.  If I'm being honest she isn't revolutionary in an "I've never thought of that before" kind of way, but she speaks more gently like a mirror you can clean at your own pace, she reflects light and truth that you have forgotten.  In her book Bread & Wine she began a movement called Present Over Perfect.  In a totally unjust summary, it's giving permission to live in the now of your life and not the daunting past or future.  It's a way to hold your loved ones near without worrying about the dishes or the bathroom or the bills, if only for a breath.  Since then she has written the book Present Over Perfect, which I have yet to read only because I have about million books I have yet to read but I am excited to get to it, hopefully in 2017.

I love the idea of present over perfect.  I think it's a spectacular concept and I like to wish it on other people and hashtag it on my Instagram.  I like to dispense it as sage wisdom to those who are at the end of their ropes.  But I have not been able to understand why I cannot find joy in the present, why it is that the idea of "present" does not bring peace and I think that is where this morning's revelation came so poignant.

The reason is because the present is relentless.

My worldview is shaped as being a mom of young kids, and my present is not peaceful, it is not restful, it is constantly demanding my attention be torn into shambles between stolen legos and matching socks and who happens to be hungriest in that exact moment.  In fact, my attempt to write the previous sentence was interrupted by two arguments about whose banana was on the stairs and who got to walk around with the bucket on their head.  The bucket, I might add, was one used just in case my son got sick in his sleep again.

These moments are not marked by a stillness, steeping in the presence of the divine, and I think if we are more honest about what present means we will stop trying so hard to escape it for something better.  Maybe not even that, but perhaps we can call the onslaught what it is: terrifying.

Let me be clear, this is not a plea for placation or fishing for compliments.  This is just honesty, something I don't think we need to be lauded for, we just need to be more comfortable with its unresolvedness.  When we tell people in the midst of honest self-reflection that "it gets better" we steal the present moment from them in hopes that they will feel better so we feel better and the tension of the already and the not yet doesn't fall so heavily.  But I digress.

I guess this is nothing more than a quiet coffee with a friend.  It's a chance to tell you that if your "now" seems too daunting that present over perfect seems like more of a chore than you're willing to take on, you are not alone.  I don't have five steps for you, mama.  I don't have a magical play mat that will keep your children entertained for hours while you reflect on the good things in your life.  What I have is permission to feel too much and the understanding of the desire to escape into our digital lives for five minutes because no one on Facebook needs you to read them a book or wipe their butt.  What I also have is a mirror that slowly is beginning to reflect someone that looks like me, frazzled, tired, using her hospital bag packing list as a coaster and truly blessed beyond reason.
This is the tension we live in, our now is relentless, our lives have so much beauty that it weighs heavy and we are called to swim in it nonetheless.  So, I guess I'll see you in the deep water, we're all there too.