humanity on the kitchen counter

to be honest, i feel as though i write about the same four or five topics over and over and over again here. slowing down, living with intention, grace, and empathy, and embracing counter cultural life styles are my “issues du jour,” it seems. 
this post is no different. i’ve likely written many others with the same exact message. same. exact. and yet, i need to write it. again.
it never ceases to amaze me, the burdens that people shoulder. the checker at the market, the fedex driver, the pediatrician, the salesperson who calls on your office. the student who sits in your classroom and the cop who pulls you over for speeding. the security worker who goes through your bag at a sporting event and the drummer from your favorite band. everyone carries burdens. shoulders stuff. pushes through.
what’s amazing to me is not that we all suffer and struggle and strive. what’s amazing is that we seem to know so little about the struggles of those around us. how can it be, in today’s “over sharing” and self promoting culture, that we continue to feel afraid of both being truly exposed and of sitting with others in their most vulnerable spaces?
a song lyric laments, “we’re all one phone call from our knees.” isn’t this the truth? a phone call, a disclosure, a realization, an honest conversation with ourself or with another. any of these can lay us low in an instant.
and this is not a bad thing.
pain and suffering are real. they are part of the human experience. so much of the time, however, we love to perpetuate the falsity that we are above the struggle. assuming that our vulnerabilities, fears, inadequacies, or failures make us unlovable and unworthy we hide them away, like stashing our dirty dishes in the bathtub when company’s coming and we don’t have time to wash them. 
the reality is, however, that our company has likely seen dirty dishes before. in fact, they may have some on the counter in their own house. what a relief it would be to see that your dishes get dirty too. that you don’t always have everything tidy and put away. that you eat. and make messes. and don’t clean them up immediately. that you are a person. real. human.
as we move through our days might we ask ourselves where we can afford to take new relational risks, living honestly and inviting others to do so as well. nothing is more compelling than honesty and nothing is freer either. my flawed humanity invites yours which in turn invites mine and so on. perhaps, if i leave the dishes out, we can do them together...


busy vs. full

fewer comments can irritate me more quickly than “i know you’re busy.” to me, “busy,” implies frenetic. it speaks of stuffing in, past capacity, as much as possible. it infers mindlessness and racing and a certain rushing from thing to thing. 
i know this kind of living.
sadly, at times, my schedule reflects all of these traits and i bounce, somewhat like a ping pong ball, from one task to the next. there have been long periods of time in my life where this kind of bouncing was the norm. not wanting to miss an opportunity for a new experience or disappoint someone who might want or need me, i would pack my calendar until the day’s seams burst and responsibilities leaked from one 24 hour period into the next as an overstuffed pillow leaks batting from its stitches.
during these periods, being busy offered me the opportunity to look important and feel the same. with no time to stop, reflect, or be quiet, i never faced into, let alone confronted, the unhealthy motivations behind my frantic pace. my busy schedule fed on itself and begat more busy-ness and less thoughtfulness about how i invested my minutes. the more time i busied away the less time and energy i left for being intentional about the way i lived. days sped into weeks into months into years in a busy blur of doing.
at this point in my life, however, i chose to have a full life rather than a busy one. the distinction may seem minor but it is important to me at my core. for me fullness has much to do with being. fullness nods toward richness, potential, pregnancy (in a descriptive and not literal way), and order. there is a difference between a busy drawer and a full one and a balloon, while empty of see-able matter, is full.
most of us have heard the object lesson that contains a jar, river rocks, and pebbles. the jar represents the capacity of our available resources, such as our time or energy. the larger river rocks represent the priorities in our lives (important people, valued roles we serve, and values we live out actively such as faith or love) and the pebbles represent the many small tasks that our humanity requires and offers (brushing our teeth, grocery shopping, and watching youtube videos). if you start the task of filling the jar by pouring in the pebbles, you can rarely fit the river rocks in. try the task the other way around and the river rocks and pebbles fit much more smoothly. 
for life to be meaningful we must begin the process of living it by filling our time and spending our energy on the things most important to us first. order, structure, planning and discipline are all required to live a full life. why is this so difficult?
constant distractions (in our pockets, on our desks, on the back of the seat in front of us) offer constant recreation, information, and connection. we are entertained more than any other generation and yet we are bored. we are flooded with information, opportunities, and choices and use these “gifts” to fill up our time rather than help us save some.
at what cost?
fill a balloon with the pebbles from our object lesson and there is no room for it to float. stuff a drawer with as much as it can hold, shove it closed, and hope you can find what you need amongst the eruption that occurs when you next attempt to open it.
this is how we live our busy lives.
living a full life rather than a busy one is no easy task. it is counter cultural and risky and involves the very un-sexy habit of planning. it’s uncomfortable to wait in line without looking at one’s phone, to check voice mail only twice a day, to go several hours without attending to facebook or twitter or cnn. it involves risk to rely on the rhythm of your own soul in determining the look of your calendar, the capacity of your schedule, and the rocks you’ll put in the jar first.
the following questions, when truly considered, might cost us: what would be lost in trading our busy-ness for fullness? to consider which investments of our time and energy are healthy and life giving (for ourselves and the important others in our life) and which are motivated by desires for power, position, image, and attempts to hide? how might it feel to impregnate moments with spaciousness, room for thought and feeling, time for intimate connectedness with ones self? with others? with tasks, hobbies, and pursuits we’re curious about but unfamiliar with? might we accomplish fewer tasks and yet be a healthier self? might we experience less “success” and more “growth?” would we miss the constant news feeds, updates, and information overload if we felt more grounded within our own hearts and minds?
i have to believe that this kind of sturdy, knowing my insides and aligning my outsides accordingly, risky, rich, complex kind of full living is worth it. because what might look like busy to me may be intentional fullness to you and none of us can name that for the other.