we need to process.
“It’s like planning a funeral,” I said. I looked across the room at my spiritual director as he nodded along. “You busy yourself with the task of details – flowers, a pastor, a funeral home, a favorite suit or dress – and you save the grieving process for later.”
I made this illustration just a week ago regarding the last month or so of my life. I had come to the end of doing other things – painting our house, adjusting to a new schedule with my family, and finishing the manuscript for a book.
I had dumped my energy and light into the tasks ahead of me. I said the processing would come later.
It is now later.
Sitting in my office staring at the sunlight of the infant spring I am putting together thoughts and reflections on the past 15 months of my and my family’s life. We have lived in this house now for over a month, and I know where everything is (sort of) – the specific and strange sounds that come in a new space are now normal and expected.
Obviously writing for this blog hasn’t risen to the level of priority. Thank you for your grace.
We as a family are finally figuring out what life looks like moment to moment; how to understand what happens next.
Who is going to work when? With two augmented work schedules and a far more active kiddo, the rhythms of life have yet to settle into place.
What does that sound mean? A different house means different lovely tics and shimmies that had all been forgotten in our previous home. A bump in the night becomes “Oh that…” within time.
Truly, we are still processing.
Spending time writing book is like running a marathon: we expend energy, working with words and phrases and ideas, trying to bring something to life that is encouraging or challenging. You spend time, sometimes simultaneous moments, thinking that you are both capable of doing this thing and completely foolish for even trying to say anything ever.
It is a process.
There are plenty of other stages, situations, and rhythms in life that require the same type of energy: parenting takes wisdom, patience, and grace. Work takes attention, physical energy, and endurance.
Parenting takes attention to detail – does she still like potatoes or are we out of that phase? – and constant awareness – hey, let’s talk about gender stereotypes on a random Wednesday over turkey burgers – and that energy has to come from somewhere.
After we are spent, our bodies and spirits poured out, we have to take a step back. We need to recharge, restore our spirits, we need to have a space and time to think about what it is that we’re doing and why and let some questions linger that we have no clue how to solve them.
We need time to process.
What I know in my spirit today is that our family has made a huge change: we moved cities, moving back to a familiar place with familiar pieces. I stepped into a part-time ministry role so that I can also engage more deeply in opportunities to write, travel, and speak. I left behind something that I thought was the culmination of the gifts and abilities God has planted deep within me. It was not to be.
I need some time to process that.
Part of our struggle with processing is that we live in a socially-constructed state of “instant irrelevance.” With 24-hour news cycles, once a piece of information is shouted into consciousness – breaking news, update, etc. – we feel as if we’re drowning in the pounding waves of information. There is no space or time to process things.
All you have to do is engage in conversation at a gathering and, after being asked a question, allow 10 seconds before you respond. Watch the reaction of your conversation partner. They may think you have lost consciousness.
Along with that instant irrelevance comes a need for “instant expertise” or “instant opinions.” We are called on every day to have an opinion about everything as soon as it happens – did you see that news article? Did that video come up on your Facebook? What do you think about that huge thing that happened 3 minutes ago that could change the whole world?
We need a quote, opinion, or action now. There’s no time to delay.
Then, all the demand and intensity disappears. Instant expert. Instant irrelevance.
I was talking with a good friend who faces a giant challenge and my first response is “Let’s get together and talk about it.” His response? “I need to process it.”
I have to confess I actually felt irritated – Process what?
Let’s talk about it now, get it out there, tell me exactly what you think about this really difficult thing that could alter the rhythms of your work, family, and future? Let’s deal with this now before we get too far from it.
What a strange and unfair request. We will not simply lose the massive, the momentous.
We need time to process.
The reason why we act thoughtlessly, is that we do not take time to think.
The reason we act without grace is that we do not take time to think about how grace may come to life in this situation.
The reason we choose sides, engage in tribal battles of “us vs. them” is that we never take the time to think about “What if I were in their shoes?”
What if we never take the time to realize that since we're all human and beloved by God, there is no "them" - just "us"?
We need time and space to process.
I believe we have fallen into a trap of searching for responses – truths that can be offered or fired into particular situations to try and “deal with” what’s happening – instead of taking the longer road to wisdom. The road that rests us, settles us, and gives us the clarity that God possesses regarding the moment in which we live.
Put another way, we have walked away from the call to “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
Instead, we often blow through the stop sign at the crossroads on our way to a perceived solution, all the while missing the rest that would have come had we only slowed down...
Put on our blinker.
Looked left. Looked right.
Then chosen wisely.
People ask me, “So how is it going?” regarding our move and settling in. I love that question. I love that people ask it. Please keep asking it.
However, my response for the coming weeks will probably be “I’ll let you know.”
I’m still processing.
Maybe today the best thing you and I can do is take a moment to really think about what’s happening around us. Find an undisturbed spot, turn off the phone and give yourself a minute with these questions:
- What are the three most significant things happening in my life right now?
- What responses or actions do I feel drawn to make?
- What perspective and insight am I missing that would lead to a healthier response?
May you find God at the crossroads as you take the precious time to process what’s in front of you. And may you be able to see the wise way apart from the far louder shouts of immediate way. And in that processing, may you come to realize that all will be well in the care of the God who responds in time.