Staying on the Front Side of the Beat

More reflections from Cynthia — nourishment for any new or reaffirmed resolutions we might consider as we approach a New Year in the middle of our Christmas celebrations of God’s incarnation. Here is Cynthia’s experienced wisdom about how to keep perspective and a sabbath sensibility, even when work responsibilities threaten to knock us out of sync with a sense of God’s presence:

I have learned that all work matters and contributes to the life of community. Working life has a rhythm in which certain work rises as other recedes; then, the process ebbs in the other direction. Some work can be temporarily suspended or delayed if a more urgent need arises. All work is interruptable.

The two greatest spiritual dangers that I face during busy times are 1) feeling indispensable — “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” and 2 )feeling futile — “Nothing I do matters.” Both of these feelings are, of course, lies. Both create a false self-importance. Ego takes center stage. Balance is awry. I push God to the side.

Being an oblate has taught me to establish habits and patterns during less-stressful times that help carry me through the busy times. Plan ahead. Say no (without guilt!) to peripheral, even worthy causes. Stay focussed. Don’t accept anything just for the money. Every experience teaches me something I need to know. Above all, REST. Fatigue is my worst enemy. Regular sabbath and taking advantage of spontaneously offered “sabbath moments” keep me balanced.

How to endure periods of busyness?

Musicians have a phrase of instruction: Sing on the “front side of the beat.” Even singing squarely in the middle of the beat can lead to lagging behind. Staying on the “front side” lends vitality and buoyancy to the music. And, it inspires enthusiasm among musical collaborators. That is my best advice to myself. It is not foolproof –sometimes life comes too fast and furious. But, I stay afloat better if I’m in the habit.

During periods of stress, I try not to feel too important. I always have some activity or responsibility that I can temporarily suspend, lesson its frequency and intensity, or ask someone else to cover for me. For example, I can ask a class member to lead Sunday School for a time. Or I can ask my husband or daughter to cook dinner. Asking for help is humbling, but necessary. And, I try to stand ready to help when a loved one needs me. This gives me a true picture of my place in the community: simultaneously insignificant AND necessary.

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