Lessons from a Chair
I don't own it, but every year for the past 3 we have spent our family vacation in Wisconsin in the exact same condo and so this chair is always there. It's one of the cool things about going to the same place year after year is that you know what to expect and what to bring with you.
I find my way to this chair the first day and every day after that, either with a book or without, and it's where the process of unwinding and recharging begins. Naps in this chair are key pieces of my vacation, and they honestly come pretty easily.
The chair for me is a symbol. It stands for the fact that I can't go 100%, 100% of the time.
I need to stop. Breathe. Nod off. Read something that I wouldn't typically read that may or may not have any real "job" value but brings light and language to my mind that's a diversion from the academic or the practical writing of church work.
I think there's a lot for us to gain when we begin to look at the various "symbols" in our lives. We all have them - concrete things that represent emotional or spiritual realities. They can be helpful and constructive or they can be brutal and painful. We often don't get to choose them, but they have a place in the geography of what is the map of our lives.
Here are three quick conclusions about symbols that may help us:
1. God is found, understood, and revealed in symbols. When you read the Old Testament, sometimes the descriptions become INCREDIBLY tedious. Reading through the description of the temple Solomon built in 1 Kings 5-7. But the detail is important - every little bit of that temple would be a symbol of God to those who worshipped there. What are the symbols in your life that reveal God to you? That teach you about Him? That lead you to know Him more?
2. Symbols are places we can run to to reorient ourselves. We need to stop kidding ourselves - no one person can live without routine. Even the most free-spirited of us have a definite daily pattern that keep us rooted in reality, in contact with life and the rhythm of how things should be. The church for centuries has had symbols such as the Cross or the Christian seasons such as Lent and Advent to remind them that we are always living in the process of Jesus coming into the world as an infant, teaching, dying and rising, and then giving birth to the church which will teach and die and rise again one day in life and hope with Jesus. What are the symbols that keep you rooted in reality when there is so much fake reality in media, social media, reality television, etc? How do you continue to come back to them?
3. Symbols can be ignored. My chair is a place I have to consciously go. It's a place where I have to slip away from my family, at a time when my wife and daughter are doing other things, to find that time of quiet solitude that is so unbelievably necessary. We live at a breakneck pace most of the time, in a culture that prizes innovation and many times overlooks tradition, habit, and routine. Have you ignored your symbols lately? How do you get back in rhythm with them today?
I miss my chair already. It's not time yet, but I know that when the year turns and I go back to the chair, I'll need it.
And God will do great things through my napping.