Then with the turning of the tide
prepare me to carry your presence to the busy world beyond,
the world that rushes in on me
till the waters come again and fold me back to you.
–Prayer of St. Aiden
As people of the post-industrial era, we have learned to ignore the rhythms of the natural world. We use lamps to illuminate the darkness and extend our work, air-conditioning to combat the languid sleepiness that comes with summer, convenience foods minimize the time it takes to prepare meals. We have found ways of truncating the things necessary to life – food, shelter, rest – so that we can focus on “more important things,” which almost always comes down to work.
I think we as Americans have been particularly good at throwing this baby out with the bathwater. We hear about Spanish or Mexican siestas and smirk at the loss of productivity. Some of us envy the French for their month-long vacations, but sigh that it would never work here. What does our opposition to the natural cycles of work and rest gain us? Are we happier or better adjusted for our conveniences, our higher per capita GDP?
The problem with having our work/rest cycle out of balance is that we rarely find God in work without first finding him in rest. The monks at Lindisfarne had a hard & fast way of balancing work with rest – when low tide exposed their causeway, they would travel onto the mainland of England, walking, and do their good works. When the tide exposed the causeway again later in the day, they would return to Lindisfarne for rest and prayers. The tide created a rhythm of rest and work, of communion with God (and their fellow monks) and contact with the world.
Today I’m longing for a rhythm of life that gives me a similar sense–work and rest in balance, communion and encouragement through my sisters and brothers with God over all. Next week I’ll be going on a camping vacation. I’m praying the closeness with nature, the rhythms of sunrise, sunset, large bodies of water and campfire sounds and smells return me to a place of rest and deep communion with God and my husband. I’m also praying for a divine “reset” on my life, to find new disciplines–or perhaps get reaquainted with some old ones–that allow me to find my rest and refuge in the Rock.
In the meantime, I’m going to take a nap.