“The soul that projects itself entirely into activity, and seeks itself outside itself in the work of its own will is like a madman who sleeps on the sidewalk in front of his house instead of living inside where it is quiet and warm.”
I am fascinated by this powerful word picture and all it conjures up in my mind. These words written by Thomas Merton in No Man Is An Island flash a warning light for me to stop and consider if my activities are of my own will and need for identity, or are they the things the Father sets before me to do. To know where the heart's intent lies amidst the busyness requires quiet for listening to His voice. There are so many voices confusing the issue.
While I was out and about one day this month (January) I took photos of autumn trees. In southern California the seasons get blurred this time of year. You see, winter looks like autumn with spring splashed about running together. Around town the tulip trees bloom while autumn leaves cling to the few deciduous trees chosen to fool us into thinking we almost have four seasons. It baffles me. The succulents dress in spring's bright blossoms in our yard while the wisteria drapes itself in the golden glow of autumn.
The two seasons side by side reminds of how the difficulties of life's challenges veil our clarity about whether or not we are like Merton's madman sleeping outside his own warm house. There are those spots in life where we are smashed between two seasons and the busyness cannot be helped except to let go of things we absolutely do not have to do presently. Some of the letting go includes things we've enjoyed for a number of years. I am thinking of a generation of working folks whose aging parents require a lot of help, a generation with children in college and grandchildren to pour into the wisdom years of experience. These busy seasons blur our clarity about how our energy should be spent.
There are no easy answers. Each season asks us to release some things in order to find some semblance of balance as we daily move back and forth between “autumn” and “spring,” whatever that holds for each of us at the moment. When I don't know what to wear in this place of dual seasons, my husband says, “layers.” I am finding when the seasons overlap I need to get quiet and listen; I need direction about what layers to allow on my calendar. Only by listening to the Father can I learn to live in the moment; and living in the moment is essential to my sense of peace, keeping me focused on the love-task at hand whether it be mothering, elder care, grandparenting or helping the broken He brings my way. We cannot do this perfectly but we can keep our ears open to the One who knows for sure if we are sleeping outside the house wrapped in our own creation of self or inside where His warm breath whispers the truth of who we are in Him and how we are to live no matter what season we've been plopped into.