Jan Johnson

Wisbit - April 2014

Doing “Serious Nothing”

Abundant SimplicityHow do you feel about being interrupted?  I’m not good at it, so I was surprised and mildly horrified that so many of Jesus’ healings were interruptions in his day.  He had somewhere to go and something to do, but then someone walked up to him and asked for help. I’m sure I would have been an impatient disciple standing next to him thinking, I so wanted to get to Capernaum by sundown! If Jesus had been as we are - strategic planners of time, often scheduling every moment of life--a lot of people would have remained diseased and blind.

So I’m thinking that Jesus must have had plenty of margin in his days. He could opt for Plan B if a living, breathing person needed him. He seemed to know that “one who moves too hurriedly misses the way” (Proverbs 19:2). I wonder: If we knew that the most important things we ever did would occur as a result of interruptions, how might we live differently?

Even the apostle Paul who accomplished so much in his adventurous life of shipwrecks, riots and long teaching stints understood the need for being able to live life in the not-so-fast lane: “I want you to have all the time you need to make this offering in your own way. I don’t want anything forced or hurried at the last minute” (2 Corinthians 9:5 The Message).

What has helped me most to slow down and have margin has been practicing sabbath—a day, or part of a day, or even an hour with nothing I had to do and nowhere I had to be. No agenda, no pressure. I started this years ago when I’d been speaking more often and saw I began hating the thought of going to an airport. But no matter how well I planned for it, it was still difficult.

So a wise friend advised me that I would need to insert moments of “serious nothing” throughout my life. She understood that I wouldn’t be able to move at a hundred miles per hour and then stop on a dime for a day off. It’s tough to truly relax for even a few moments if our schedule is jam-packed. We are still twitching, so to speak. (That’s why some people need a two week vacation. They spend the first week relearning how to relax.) My friend’s phrase “serious nothing” was so much fun to say aloud that I would laugh and say to myself, “Now for a little time of serious nothing.” That slowed me down.

A life of sabbath, pauses and margins creates a stillness inside us that infuses our thoughts and even our conversation with others. Others pick up our peacefulness and enjoy being around us.  We look deeply at them. We see them. We hear what they say. They are real people, not just interruptions.

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson

© Jan Johnson  excerpted and adapted from chapter 7 of Abundant Simplicity.



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