Over the last few weeks, we’ve introduced you to a few folks who will be regular contributors to this blog for the next several months. Brittany Deininger (second-year MA in Theology & Culture student) wrote about “Poetry and the Art of Survival,” Heather Casimere (first-year MATC student) reflected on the journey that led her here in “Following the Call,” and D. Michael Louderback (MA in Counseling Psychology, ‘13) explored the complex intersection of psyche and pain in “The Fate of Pain.” Here, Seth Thomas (Master of Divinity, ‘16) writes about what grounds us in the midst of our intersections, rather than sliding into the infinite loops that keep us busy but accomplish nothing.
This moment is an intersection. We stand in between all that we have been and all that we will become. And all we can do is live in this instance, this day. Jesus reminds us that we need not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Our task is to focus on what is right here, before us.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how we become more productive or engage our work with greater focus and efficiency. There are many tactics and practices that help us get at this issue. We set goals, we make plans, and we hope that through the slow process of practice we will be able to make progress.
But perhaps we find ourselves stuck on the goal without knowing how to move ahead. We want to get there, we want tomorrow to be today. And so we miss this present moment. We think about what’s coming (or what’s been) and lose this moment of intersection we stand in right now.
Perhaps we find ourselves stuck on the goal without knowing how to move ahead.
Electrical grounding: “Connection to ground also limits the build-up of static electricity when handling flammable products or electrostatic-sensitive devices.” (Wikipedia)
As I think about intersections, I want to explore what it means to be grounded and how to break out of infinite loops, routines that take us nowhere but cycle on endlessly.
In the intersection of this moment, we need something that will ground us. An electrical ground, among other things, limits the buildup of static in devices or materials. The ground helps reduce how much “noise” there is in the system, helping the circuit to function properly and efficiently. Likewise, we need grounding forces that help us rise above the fray of static noise that surrounds us every day. We need practices, for instance, that will remove us from the incessant noise of stress or the news or demands of our jobs and homes. We need rhythms of life that will always pull us back to the center, towards the love of God and the way of Jesus and ground us out against the noise.
In the intersection of this moment, we also face the dreaded infinite loop: eat, sleep, repeat. The record on the turntable has started to skip, repeating the beat, not moving forward into the beautiful song it was meant to play. We go to work, check our messages, go to meetings, take a coffee break, and the day continues on in a monotonous routine of similarity. Even if we have variety in our lives, with exciting work and interesting people to share it with, sometimes we can get caught in periods of looping, feeling like we can’t get moving, can’t grow, and we lose sight of the purpose of all that we do.
We need to be able to stand in a moment, facing the infinite loops of our day, and learn how to pause or extract ourselves from it all, even just for a moment. Like grounding, breaking the infinite loop helps us to gain perspective, to take stock of this present moment and discover the context it stands in. Breaking the infinite loop of life isn’t easy. We need something that will disrupt us, open our eyes, call us awake. If we find ourselves in an infinite loop, it’s not likely that we will be able to break ourselves out of it alone: we need others. We need the powerful force of communities and individuals in our lives to help us put the world into perspective. We need to tell people our story and hear theirs, recognizing that in our human interaction, our mutual sharing of life, we gain perspective for who we are aside from the infinity of our endlessly cycling days.
We need something that will disrupt us, open our eyes, call us awake.
It’s been less than a year since I finished graduate school. I’m also the father of a two-year-old. And our lives continue to feel like they are in flux, where change is the constant. It is so easy to get stuck in a loop or swept up into the static these days, the good, beautiful, challenging work of living in the world, serving God, and trying to discern directions for the future. I have found comfort and purpose in taking moments to breathe and break the loop, to find the ground, to stand calmly in this moment of intersection and pause. Sabbath rest, slowing down, and learning to appreciate the tension of such a moment in life is a rich spiritual practice that leads me back into the world with a renewed sense of calling and purpose. I cannot do without it.
As you stand at the intersection of your life, can you recognize the forces that call you to the ground, into humble and patient waiting for the voice of God to speak into the static? The voice is soft, so in a noisy world, we need practices that will slow us down and quiet our hearts. What grounds you?
In this moment, what is looping inside of you? Is the record of your life skipping, repeating, not advancing the song, but repeating a fixed beat? Here we need the help of the other, those outside of the loop, to intervene, to connect with us and help us set the record back on track. We have to ask for help, have to reach out to people who love us and know us and can help us. With their help, the song can begin to play again.