I came to a recent reality in my life that my habit of multitasking was getting the best of me. While looking for my wallet which I thought I had left in my car…I could not find the car keys to unlock the car, which hopefully housed my wallet. All this was happening when I was rushing to get to an important doctor appointment. Finally I found the car keys and the wallet, but then remembered I would need my glasses for the appointment. You guessed it…I then spent five minutes looking for my glasses. Naturally, I was late for the appointment, but had to wait twenty minutes in a waiting room anyway. Such is life! The whole episode was another warning light that there is a need to slow down and focus sometimes—in fact for me there is a vital need not just for slow down, but to simply STOP.
Have you ever noticed that stop is one of the first words young children learn to read? It is because it is written on those big red signs at thousands of street corners around the country. Kids love those signs because they are easy to read and their meaning is simple to understand. I have come to believe that most of us need spiritual stop signs that will force us to disengage for a while. You can interpret that sentence in whatever way most fits the challenges of your life. Perhaps you need to disengage from ongoing arguments with a spouse, family member, or co-worker. Perhaps you need to untangle from a certain Anxiety or Fear that has been dominating your thinking for days on end. A stop sign can be helpful in many ways.
I hope you will think of the power of the word STOP as it relates to much of the frantic non-stop activity in which we daily engage. Many live in a rush, moving from one thing to the next all day long until at the end of the day they fall into bed exhausted. We close our eyes for a moment of prayer or meditation, and the next things we know the alarm clock sounds or the next day’s activities are fully upon us. So here is my challenge to self—and to you. Deliberately choose to put a few well timed stop signs into your day. Find five minute breathers between meetings, appointments, activities, and demands. Find small deliberate spaces to simply STOP. Warning don’t do this on a busy highway or in the middle of a street crossing.
I have found that when my life is becoming full of frantic activity and endless multitasking that an occasional and deliberate STOP is necessary for me to re-center—and to live fully within the gift of the moment. During these deliberate STOPPAGES I choose to turn off the cell phone, close the door, close the application on my computer, turn down the radio, and just STOP—and do nothing—for a few life giving moments. That’s right– do nothing. (I feel half guilty even saying it). Let silence take over that moment, and know that God will meet me in those moments of silence.
Giving up the need to be incessantly busy might be a first step toward spiritual renewal. Psalm 46:10 “Be Still and know that I am God.”
“The Place of Peace”
At the heart of the cyclone tearing the sky
And flinging the clouds and the towers by,
Is a place of central calm;
So here in the roar of mortal things,
I have a place where my spirit sings,
In the hollow of God’s palm.
Edwin Markham, 1852