She must learn again to speak
starting with I
starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.

-- Marge Piercy

Time to Waste Some Time

So it seems I'm going to be spending some time with this wall I've run into. Pretty, isn't it?

In my creative life over the last six months -- through all the successes and failures, disappointments and opportunities -- there's been an underlying certainty about what to do next. Now...I haven't a clue.  I'm not lacking inspiration, but just can't seem to get traction with any of my ideas. The timing feels off or I get started on something that leads straight to nowhere. Wheels spin and if there's movement at all it feels like it's in the wrong direction.

I'm tired, hovering dangerously on the brink of creative burnout, and -- finally -- I've given up trying to find ways through, around and over the wall. I've given up trying to prove to myself that my momentum has not, in fact, abandoned me for good.

Right now, the one and only thing I know for sure is that it's time to stop trying to make something happen, because that will only make things worse.

So then, what to do? (Because God and I both know...I need to do something.)

These words from Richard Foster, equal parts comforting and challenging, came along at the perfect time:

...undermine that perennial, everlasting human itch to get ahead with intentional times of "holy leisure." Take a nap. Spend an hour visiting with your neighbor about nothing important. Help each other watch the sun go down. Take a walk, not for exercise or to study plant life but for the sheer joy of walking. Stop praying for a day. Listen to the birds -- not to get some "message" from them but to hear them. Sit in the silence, doing nothing, having nothing, needing nothing. Take a bath instead of a shower. Waste time for God. The ideas are endless." (from Streams of Living Water)

What's the difference between "wasting time" and "wasting time for God?" It comes down to this: when I'm wasting time, I'm painfully aware of time, aware of it's passing, knowing there's something more constructive I could be doing with this most precious commodity. This variety of time-wasting leaves me feeling drained. When I'm wasting time for (and with) God, I feel nourished and nurtured. "Time" loses all meaning, I become fully engaged in what I'm doing, all sense of "should" falls away, and I can see clearly the truth that everything is fine -- perfect, in fact -- just as it is.

For me, wasting time for God means:

...slowing down to take it all in, to integrate, to enjoy what I've created with a focus on what's working, not on what I wish was working better.

...writing for the sake of writing, not toward the goal of producing.

...taking ridiculous numbers of photos, and longer-than-normal walks.

...reading, because as Lyla Willingham Lindquist says, "I don't think one can let words out for any length of time without putting somebody else's back in."

...watching my kid do what he loves to do on the baseball field, and appreciating the beauty of a sport not ruled by a clock.

The key word in the Foster quote above is "intentional," because if I can't stop the undercurrent of "what if?" and "what now?" and "what's next?" from running through everything I do, then leisure -- holy or otherwise -- is not possible. The temptation to fall back into forge-ahead, fix-it mode is strong, which is why I need reminders of how to ride out this ebb in a way that honors my own creative process, so that I'm truly ready, rested, renewed when things start flowing again.

Can I trust that God has placed this wall here for some very good reasons? If so, I can stop hating and fearing it. I can welcome it as part of my current landscape, lean on it, sit down with my back against it, rest. I can see it as a reminder to Effort Less, just for a little while, until whatever wants to happen next is ready to reveal itself.

Until then, if you have more ideas for how I can waste time for God, I'd love to hear them.  :-)

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