By Terri Stewart: this was originally posted on Terri’s Beguine Again blog …
I have to admit it. In my community, I sometimes get frustrated with people who want to always DO stuff. What they don’t realize is that my vocation consists of doing things for people all. the. time. I’m a chaplain. And I’m a pastor. And I run a volunteer organization. And I’m a teacher. And I’m a parent. And a spouse. And this…and that… All the co-identities that pull at my core consist of doing identities.
This doing-ness is different from busy-ness. It is definitely focused on creating moments of grace, love, mercy, and justice in the here and now. But sometimes, I admit it, I want less doing-ness and more being-ness. This became apparent to me recently when I was meeting with my small group and the question arose, “What do you need?” We were meeting outside on a beautiful fall day. Within my vision, I saw a seagull circling overhead. My immediate answer was, “This. I need this.” I need sitting still. I need soaring above. I need unity with all of creation. In that moment, my one true desire was being-ness.
Ok, I admit it. I lead an extraordinary life. I am blessed beyond measure to be able to fulfill my life of ministry and call. Most people do not have the privilege and means to be able to march in the street when needed or to testify before the Senate or to delve into something completely new. These are all things done because I have the resources to support me. That is why my community wants to do stuff. They crave the connection to one another and to the Divine that happens when we are in service to one another, to a greater Good, and to the world. Unfortunately, while making this greater connection, the connection to the divine spark within is neglected.
The greater question is, how do we nurture both the spark within and the connection to all that is? John Wesley is reported to have said, “There is no holiness but social holiness.” Sometimes we think social means social justice. And that is certainly part of it. But what it really means is society. All of us. Desmond Tutu spoke of Ubuntu theology when he said, “I am because we are; we are because I am.”
In this profound connection of me and we, being-ness happens. Becoming happens. Transformation happens. Holiness happens. But it is a dance. The me-ness and the we-ness dance together in a beautiful ballet that sometimes features a solo, a duet, or an entire ensemble. What makes it so incredible is the variety of dances and the people that weave in and out seamlessly featuring some, one, or all.
How do we continue to nurture our solitary spark and our communal spark? There is an old song that goes, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” But I have to tell you, when I have lit fires in the past, it sometimes takes a lot more than one little tiny spark! In fact, I have resorted to using charcoal lighter fluid on campfires during times that the wood was wet. So that little spark needs some stuff! It needs something to catch ahold of and it may need some fuel. But by itself, it will die. It takes a bunch of stuff to get a fire going no matter what that song says!
Sabbath practices are definitely one way to nurture the solitary spark and the communal spark. It is a time to unplug from busy-ness and doing-ness and to enter into being-ness and becoming-ness. I don’t think that there is anyway to truly have a Sabbath practice without involving other people! I usually take Sabbath on Mondays. I have had to train everyone, including my family, that Sabbath is Monday and I won’t reply to work emails. So now I get emails that start, “I know it’s Monday, so don’t read this right now…” The whole community is keeping Sabbath with me whether they know it or not!
For Sabbath, I will contemplate my true desire. Build up my spark so that when it is time to create a fire, I am ready to join the community.
What will you do to build your solitary spark? How will that lead to action in the community?