T. S. Eliot writes in Four Quartets, “Except for the point, the still point,/ There would be no dance,/ And there is only the dance.”
Due to frequent heavy travel schedules, I am sometimes not able to keep in the rhythm of deadlines for blog posts (this, my Christian blog), the free Soulish Food newsletter provided by my ministry, Hungry Souls (http://www.hungrysouls.org). I get bogged down in the comings and goings. Recovering from long trips where I have been away for more than two weeks sometimes takes me days to really get back into my daily swing. However, I am learning that there is a rhythm in presence and in absence. Each one works its own good. Much of the dance of our lives is poised in the pauses.
Henri Nouwen’s remarkable little book The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ, written for those who minister, makes the point that there is a ministry of absence as well as a ministry of presence. “Without this withdrawal,” he writes, “we are in danger of no longer being the way, but being in the way; of no longer speaking and acting in his name, but in ours; of no longer pointing to the Lord who sustains, but only to our own distracting personalities. … The more this creative withdrawal becomes a real part of our ministry the more we participate in the leaving of Christ, the good leaving that allows the sustaining Spirit to come.”
The still point in the dance is the moment when we balance on our toes before plunging into the next step. When I am unable to do what I want to do (like sending Soulish Food out on time), I must remind myself that the Lord is perfectly able to fill the pause with His Presence, and that sometimes this is not a failure on my behalf, but part of the rhythm that is in His mind. This gives me ease to know that the sacred melody to which we step is filled with pattern and emptiness, busyness and quiet, words and silence.
This is an extremely difficult year for people—and for many that is going to take some time to change—until the economy improves. All of us have friends and family who are without jobs. Despair threatens and the loss of material safety-nets is almost unbelievable. No matter how difficult, however, the circumstances of my life I am still choosing to learn the art of dancing. I have made it a point to pray for those who are facing hard choices; I pray that they will step in holy rhythm (not frantic anxiety), trusting that there is a divine pattern working in their behalf.
“If we are indifferent to the art of dancing, we have failed to understand, not merely the supreme manifestation of physical life, but also the supreme symbol of spiritual life.”
Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life
Other projects involving Karen right now:
Karen Mains is wading through research data gathered from participants in Listening Groups. These groups are small, including three to four people only, and are based on an architecture of silence, listening and questions as response. The growth curve of many participating in these groups seems exceptional, and so Karen and a team of volunteers are looking into why. Karen has been a spiritual coach to many through her years of ministry and is excited about the replication potential of Listening Groups.
She is also eager to get back into her own writing, but is examining the possibilities for online publishing that new technologies offer. Have any creative-writing tips you might offer regarding online publishing?
Advent Retreats of Silence:
Registration is open for the upcoming (Advent) Silent Retreats. One of the Advent Retreats is for Christian women; the other is designed for both Christian women and men. See the Hungry Souls Web site for details.