A Different Drum
Perhaps the book that we all should be reading right about now is Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Walden was a reflection on living simply in a natural setting. God knows we could all use some fresh air and a few miles between us and COVID.
Thoreau lived for two years, two months and two days in a cabin he built himself on Walden Pond near Concord Massachusets--growing his own food, fishing, and spending all that time in relative isolation.
His book has long been a bible of sorts for those who are bent on self-reliance. But while Thoreau did spend over two years alone---he didn't stay that way. In the end, he came back to his community, to family, and to his work.
One of the many things that our shared forced isolation has taught us is just how much we do need one another, despite any beliefs we might harbor that we can make it on our own. However, I do think that there are things to be learned by what we've experienced.
I recently read a quote from Walden that resonated with me, and I wrote it down for safekeeping. Today I understood why. Here it is:
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a [person] does not keep pace with [their] companions, perhaps it is because [they hear] a different drummer. Let [them] step to the music which [they hear] however measured or far away.His two years in isolation taught Thoreau something about being free from the way our culture defines success. The process of finding freedom from the tyranny of "desperate haste," and "desperate enterprises" is one of letting go of the need for control, and surrendering one's self to something greater than one's self.
As I was thinking about all of this today, I came across the following line from Fr. Richard Rohr:
Whenever God is conceived in the soul it is always an allowing, never an accomplishment.I remember when I was growing up, there was a big chart on the wall of my Sunday school class with all of the kids' names on it. Every time you went to Sunday school you got to put a star sticker on the chart. I can still remember how those star stickers tasted when you would lick them right before sticking them on the chart next to your name.
Obviously, the students who had the most stars were better Christians.
That's what it taught us, anyway. You learned pretty quickly that there was a checklist when it came to faith and if you got items checked off the list, you were good... and if you didn't... well, that wasn't good.
The problem is, so many Christians still live that way---adhering to a checklist faith, licking and sticking stars on some imaginary chart that has the title "God's Love And How To Earn It" stenciled at the top of it.
But COVID has kicked so much of the way we used to do things to the curb, and not all of it has been bad. For example, all of the checklist ways that we used to measure our worth to God---we're not really able to fall back on them any longer.
At least not in a way where they can be seen by others, which was really the reason so many of us did them in the first place.
Our isolation has taught us just how much we need community, and how desperate we are to return to it. We all long for a touch, a hug, a handshake... anyway that we can be connected. We have tried on self-reliance long enough, am I right?
It's also taught us that there are better ways to follow Jesus than by a checklist. Success is not something that should be equated with faith. We are all on our own journey, our own timetable when it comes to figuring out who we are to God and who God is to us.
Our faith is our own, and it deserves to be worked out in "fear and trembling" as the Apostle Paul once said... or as I say it: "With complete and total messiness."
We can't color in the lines any more---the lines have been erased so it's time for us to create new lines, blend new colors, and unleash the creativity and imagination that has long been trapped by the expectations of others.
There will come a day when this will end, and we will begin to fashion a new world.
And on that day I hope that the lessons we've learned about checklists, coloring, messiness, and surrender come back to us, and we never let them go.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.