Remember when you were about 10 years old and school ended for the summer? Remember that delicious sense of the days stretching before you with no set routine and lots of time to be outside? There was time to play with friends and visit with family, opportunities to make up new games and participate in old, familiar ones as well, to spend hours reading whatever you chose rather than what was assigned. I do! I remember waking up that first day of summer vacation and stretching to feel the bigness, the freedom and the peace of what lay before me.
That same sense came back to me as I recently pondered one of the maxims that our founder gave us. In part it says, “Abandon yourself, surrendering very gently, to the loving Providence of God” (Maxim 17). Isn’t that lovely—“surrendering very gently”? Medaille does not suggest that we in any way do violence to ourselves in the process of letting go. But God does want us to surrender, because when we do, God knows that we will experience the bigness, the freedom and the peace of knowing that we fall into the arms of Someone who loves us with abandon, Someone who cannot even imagine any future for us but grace and life and wholeness.
“…God does want us to surrender, because when we do, God knows that we will experience the bigness, the freedom and the peace of knowing that we fall into the arms of Someone who loves us with abandon, Someone who cannot even imagine any future for us but grace and life and wholeness.”Sister Sean C. Peters, CSJ
What keeps us from this surrender? Why do we so often hold tight to determining our own future and making our own plans and being disappointed when life does not turn out just as we desire? Along the way, did we lose the sense of adventure that allows us to try new things, to create new ways of being, to welcome new ideas, to listen attentively to others’ suggestions and even to risk failure?
For those in the United States, the answer may come from our North American culture that has such a love affair with success that it is difficult for us to let go of our planning and our self-determination. We seem to feel so much pressure to “do” all the time. Many cultures tell us that our value is in doing. Our backgrounds, and even some of our community training, may reinforce this message. The result is that we sometimes act as though it all depends on us—if we let up for one moment, the whole thing (whatever that is) will come crashing down. But if we hold on so tight, are we perhaps missing the very graces God has planned for us when we surrender to God’s desires and God’s plans?
How, then, do we re-learn this surrender and sense of adventure? One way is by cultivating the virtue of leisure, of sabbath time, time to let go of busyness and focus on something that delights us. How counter-cultural is that? An adage of North American culture says, “Idleness is the Devil’s workshop.” But Joseph Pieper, a leisure guru, suggests that “idleness,” as understood when the aphorism originated, meant distractedness or an inability to center yourself, rather than simple inactivity.
“…true leisure is the playground of the Spirit of God. In these moments when we stop to pay attention, to focus, to center ourselves on something outside of ourselves, the Spirit creates miracles in us—converts us into new people.”Sister Sean C. Peters, CSJ
Joyce Rupp tells us that in true leisure, we focus and, in the process, “we can learn to be more receptive, more open, more peaceful and more ready to recognize the many gifts of our life.” Much more than doing nothing, leisure intentionally enjoys life without the need to be functional or productive. Leisure seeks no result other than a happy heart and a spirit renewed.
Far from being the Devil’s workshop, true leisure is the playground of the Spirit of God. In these moments when we stop to pay attention, to focus, to center ourselves on something outside of ourselves, the Spirit creates miracles in us—converts us into new people. Then we follow the wisdom of Maxim 60: “Love and strive after the interior gentleness of your soul, living in peace and in the tranquility of all your passions, and outwardly doing all things without over-eagerness.”
Take some time often to recreate that summer feeling—even in the darkest days of winter. Take or make time to breathe in the Spirit and stretch to the bigness, the freedom and the peace of surrendering ever so gently to our loving God.