the blazing stillness of a desert sunset
The other day I was having coffee with a fellow retired priest living out here in the desert. Like me, he had been ordained for many years, and like me, when the time came for him to retire, he eagerly embraced the opportunity.
I have been thinking about the reason why the prospect of retirement was so appealing to me. After all, I had been a professional "churchman" for 40 years - church every Sunday, teaching, preaching, baptisms, funerals, meetings, counseling, fund-raising, working on those long-range strategic plans. I was living a very busy, hectic, and extremely full life. But, to be totally honest, after 40 years I was starting to get bored with it all.
I now realize that something was stirring up in me, and my boredom with my life was the symptom of it.
In her beautiful book, "Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis," Lauren Winner talks about a time in her life when she became bored with it all - bored with her job, bored with the church, bored with her faith.
She reflects on the word "boredom."
Even to my own ear, my complaint of boredom sounds tinny and childish. The complaint seems to partake of the very banality boredom tries to name. Boredom sounds petulant: a demand to be entertained, to be amused.
Ms. Winner goes on to say that she gradually realized that her boredom was more of a "stirring in her spirit" than a desire to move on to something different-bigger, better and more exciting.
She found that her boredom was a holy invitation to do some soul searching:
Thomas Merton, the twentieth-century Trappist monk, wrote that what we are attempting to escape when we try to flee boredom is only ourselves. Perhaps boredom is not unlike loneliness: the best response may be not to run from it, but to give yourself to it, to see it as an invitation to attend more carefully to the very thing that seems boring.
Gradually, a sense of order overtakes the wretchedness of boredom, there is a movement toward stillness, and in the stillness we find God, and in God, our true identity.
Since I retired, my life has changed drastically. I was living in a whirlwind of almost constant daily activity, and now I have little or nothing that I "must" do - no more plans, no more crazy Sundays, no more thinking about career advancement.
One would think I would now be really "bored," but I find the opposite to be true. Now, more and more I find myself simply being "present," open and available to whatever comes my way. I have discovered the joy of being present. I relish the luxury of simply being present.
In the blazing stillness of the present, I find a deep peace.