The Tension of a Hurried but Holy Life

Posted on January 21, 2014 by Katherine Ruch

I have often felt guilty that my life has a lot of hurry in it.  Certainly, I always fight to find sabbath for me and my family, and we schedule it so that it happens.  Nevertheless, with young children and with ministry I often find that sewn into the very fabric of my call are the hurried threads required to keep together the picture.  Those who work with people, many people, will find that needs will not always keep the proper hours.

My goal must be to be holy in spite of the hurry, and then to find a rhythm of life that involves movement and rest.  How many times, however, since I can't have the perfect sabbath or the perfect quiet time, I don't sabbath at all, or I don't pray.  Forcing myself to honor the rest and try, even if it is peppered with interruptions and disappointment, makes those periods form a kind of expected rhythm which makes it easier to do the next time.  If I take my regular time of prayer, my body and heart expect it and seem to be waiting, more ready to receive.  So then, even if my prayer time seems a little shallow and distracted, I am still building a pattern into my soul that has stopping places where I will eventually be more able to hear, to be, to rest, as I build muscles of sabbath moments and times.

We have found this with our family devotions.  Sometimes they seem so pointless with the youngest child distracting everyone or demanding a certain Bible.  But the hurried life demands stopping if it is to be holy.  Short prayers and a reading at the end of the day bring the kind of closure that reminds us of our identity as we go into the night--we belong to Christ.  Even though it is so often far from perfect, our children expect it, ask for it, are disappointed when we miss it because they are used to the rhythm of prayer, and over time, it changes us all.  Participation in this world requires full engagement alternated with periods of rest.

Here is a beautiful poem by Dorothy Sayers, giving verse to that tension of whirling action that participation in the world and relationship requires and the need to pull away and find rest.  At the center, can be a rest that prepares us to go back in to the movement, but we can also be tempted to "fall asleep" in a desire to be freed from all that messy engagement and escape from being fully present.


Here then at home, by no more storms distrest,

  Folding laborious hands we sit, wings furled;

  Here in close perfume lies the rose-leaf curled.

Here the sun stands and knows not east nor west,

Here no tide runs; we have come last and best,

  From the wide zone in dizzying circles hurled

  To that still centre where the spinning world

Sleeps on its axis, to the heart of rest.

Lay on thy whips, O Love, that me upright,

  Poised on the perilous point, in no lax bed

    May sleep, as tension at the verberent core

Of music sleeps; for, if thou spare to smite,

  Staggering, we stoop, stooping, fall dumb and dead,

    And, dying so, sleep our sweet sleep no more.

                                                     --Dorothy Sayers

I have reflected on this poem quite a bit and will give an attempt at explanation:

We come to a place of rest, home at the center of "dizzying circles," the axis which is still yet surrounded by movement.  But we are also "poised on a perilous point," as we may be tempted to a dying to action to escape the whirl of life.

Love is what motivates us to be part of the rhythms of the earth, such as the tides, the rising and the setting of the sun, and music (which includes activity punctuated with rest).  If we choose to pull out of the world into a "lax bed," living our lives for pleasure and comfort, our sleep actually loses its sweetness, as it is not the sleep of someone who has participated in the labors Love requires.  Instead we will have pulled out of the rhythm of love.

Ahh,  Love.  That is the call that keeps us hurried sometimes but also pulls us out of orbit to be renewed to go back in to the spin.  This is the tension of a hurried but holy life--to rest at the still point, but not become self-indulgent there.  Love calls us up and out into action and participation.