Off the Treadmill – Reflection on Psalm 127

Reflection from Psalm 12723844169_a01041cb9c_b

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.
(Psalm 127:1-2 NLT)

Man Behind Me

He darts in and out of traffic like a jockey trying to get an inside position. Hurried and harried, he races by one car and then another. I wonder what he will do when he reaches the construction zone where two lanes become one. Sure enough, he continues to pass people trying to get as close as possible to where the two lanes join while others wait patiently in an ever growing line of vehicles.

Most people, not liking his technique, tailgate the car in front of them prohibiting him from pulling in front of them causing him to grow more aggressive, frustrated and angry.
I wonder why he feels the need to pass by others. Do rules not apply to him? Does he believe he has found a loophole? Does he feel he more important than all those he cuts in front of? Or, does he have an agenda, a schedule to keep, in order to attain all he desires?

The Pursuit of More

The man in the car behind me, well, now in front of me, causes me to pause; Why am I in such a rush? I can always justify my rushed life; deadlines, distractions, interruptions. But if I’m completely honest, I just want more.

There, I said it. I am rushed, busy, and hurried, because I want more. In order to get more, I must up my game, squeezing more minutes out of my hour, more hours out of my day, and more days out of my life.

Since I want more, I say “yes” to opportunities that come my way. Not wanting to miss out, I add one more responsibility to an already overbooked life. I want more for my family and kids, so I fill up my family’s calendar as well. The more I want, the faster I go creeping toward rushed and harried and finding myself passing others as I drive to the front of the line.

The Psalmist confronts me by telling me I labor in vain. I get up early and go to bed late, trying to gain a few more hours, but the Psalmist says it is for nothing. I believe that if I can squeeze more time out of my day, or more life out of my time, I can finally have peace and relax.

Happiness No Longer Lives Here

The Psalmist, living in a much different time, describes me perfectly. I would love to believe that my endless pursuit of more reflects contemporary culture, but given the Psalmist’s comments, I can’t say that. I suffer from a human tendency to forfeit God’s peace for false promises of peace.

I am really pursuing “what I think will make me happy.” While seeking happiness, happiness moves, sometimes without a forwarding address. The quest continues.

What Scripture tells us, research confirms; we are horrible of knowing what makes us happy. We believe we know what will make us happy, but once we ‘get’ whatever we seek, we are still unhappy. Spending time reflecting may reveal how we seek this, then that never finding what we truly desire.

If we find happiness, it lasts only for a short time. We get a new house and a few years later we want a better house. We get a new car and in a few years, rusted, dented, and breaking down, we need a new car. We get a new spouse… you get the idea. Time after time after time we prove that we don’t know what will make us happy, but we are unable, or unwilling to confess it. Madness. We live pure madness.

Off the Treadmill

The Psalmist shows a different way. Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the soldiers watch in vain. In vanity we anxiously forgo what our body needs seeking to make “it” happen, believing if we simply get this one thing, then our life will be complete, finally make sense, and we will be happy. Here’s the sad reality: IT WON’T!

We get up early and go to bed late eating the anxious bread of toil for what? Why do we endlessly pursue more? Do we really believe that by pursuing more we will one day “arrive” and finally find peace or happiness? What are we ultimately chasing after? What would happen if we stopped chasing after the more and began seeking the “more than” resting in God’s loving arms?

We can get off the treadmill. Abiding in Jesus brings clarity and vision so we no longer have to pursue the “more” but rather pursue his “more than” bringing rest to our weary souls and lives. In Jesus we find peace, joy, and happiness.

My Day At the Convent

As we got out of the car I felt different. For the past couple of months my soul had been aching. I had been longing for something that was missing. For the past several years I felt I was groping in the dark. It was easy to hide this groping because those around me were groping to. We don’t always talk about it, in fact, it is rarely that we even acknowledge it. Like two people passing one asking “How are you doing”, the other answering “just find thanks” we simply continue on our way without thinking about the answer, or the question. So, we fill our lives and our souls with projects, programs, and possessions that help us take our mind off the real issues within our spirits. We turn, or rather run, away from John Wesley’s question, “How goes it with your soul.” It could be that we don’t understand the question. It sounds like a different language to us. It might be that we don’t know how to respond to the question. We have become so good at allowing the noise of life to crowd us that we are no longer comfortable with the silence it takes to answer such a question. All around us sounds abound. Of course there are times we take to get away, to leave the noise to others, to find a place to think and reflect, but those times are rare. We have been unable to cultivate a sense of silence and wonder into our everyday life. So, as we pulled up to the convent things ‘felt’ different. I can’t explain it. It was as if a puzzle piece was moved and finally everything fit. The flurry (activity, not ice cream) of my life was replaced with a familiar, yet far away friend. Sister Magdalene showed us around the facilities. There were rooms with beds and showers. There were meeting rooms. There was a library and even a bookstore. Perhaps the most impressive item there was silence. The rooms looked a lot like hotel rooms. Yet, there was one vital difference. There was not a TV or a Telephone in any of the rooms. The difference between these rooms and those in a hotel was simply that silence was expected. People were there not to get away from life, rather, people came there enter into life. It isn’t the silence that takes us away from our lives, it is the silence that helps us to enter into our lives. Our true lives. As we got out of the car, even though I had left home, I was in fact coming back home. Home to where my Father was waiting. Home to the Open Arms. Home to the robe of acceptance and the ring of belonging. The noise was gone. In the silence I heard the Father of Life. In the silence of letting go of the noise, I discovered the one thing, the only thing that I needed.