Like probably many of you, I have arrived at the time of year where my thoughts look back at the grace and blessing provided while also looking ahead at what is to come. And part of properly jump-starting this next 365-day period are choices that make me more effective and wiser…you know, important things like “I will eat more homemade chocolate chip cookies this year.” In some senses, a new year is like a fresh canvas on which to paint. It is renewal.
I believe we as educators easily fall into margin-less living. One book that is definitely on my re-read list for 2014 is Margin, by Richard A. Swenson. In it he defines margin as “the space between our load and our limits. [It] is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.” I identify.
As educators, we all tend to pitch our tents in the “Land of No Margin” and sometimes just go ahead and build a home! But one idea that I am mulling over is the simple notion of solitude. A few weeks back, when the semester had finished and break had started, the house was empty and I decided to just stay home and sit in front of the fire, read the Scriptures, pray, and just think.
My mind often feels like a hard drive that needs to be de-fragmented. All of the information is there somewhere, but bits and bytes are scattered around my brain in no coherent organization. When it was time to finally get into my day, I realized how renewed I felt just having solitude as a small part of my day.
I love those who can say in one sentence what takes me multiple paragraphs, and C.S. Lewis is one of those – brilliant and thought-provoking. I read a weighty quote of his that served as the catalyst for this post. Lewis stated that “we live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”
Meditation is hard pressed to be found in our fast-food pace of life. “Yes, I’d like, uh, two minutes of meditation, and hmm, let’s hold the solitude. And yes, supersize that order, please.” Like a fast-food experience, I feel full in the short-term, but indulging myself in that lifestyle will leave me winded and lethargic in the long-term.
I understand the pace we live. I get up, get on the “moving sidewalk,” and before I know it, the day is over and I am wondering what was accomplished.
My time in front of the fire was a microcosm of what is desperately needed in my life this year: solitude and plain ole time to think. A few moments to ponder life intentionally and then make decisions that are healthy for me and my classroom. Guard your mental and spiritual health. And then let the overflow influence your students. That is teaching.