I recently took Harry for a walk around our neighborhood of Golden Hill. Ending up at a park where Harry proceeded to pee on roughly 96 different bushes, I had a perfect view overlooking downtown San Diego. There were lights everywhere, the highways were packed full of cars speeding to their next event…everyone seemed to be moving so fast, as though they were on their last mission in life.
I think YHWH may have felt that way when he looked over his people scurrying about their everyday business after he had faithfully rescued them from exile in Egypt. They had become so quickly taken up with the mundane of the everyday that they had neglected to reflect on the extraordinary of their past and present. As you read the earlier books of the Hebrew Scriptures YHWH’s reminder to his people almost sounds redundant, “I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God.” (Lev. 11:45)
But…it is not redundant. It is necessary. They needed to remember and reflect on their story in order to fully embrace their identity.
So, YHWH has them party. These festivals are scattered throughout the year as a reminder to reflect and celebrate his provision (Lev. 23). They create a rhythm of reflection and remembrance in the midst of chaos. A reminder that the God that worked in history is still at work today.
Today, the Jewish tradition slows down to celebrate holidays like Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). Times to reflect on their story and realign themselves as individuals within it.
Christians celebrate holidays like Easter and Christmas to remember the central figure in our faith, Jesus.
These festivals on our modern calendar have the potential to create space for reflection and examination. With that said, I believe we often experience more chaos than peace in those times. Whether it is shopping, family drama or endless travel, we haven’t created a sustainable space to remember.
I believe there may be one exception; New Years. This is the season full of reflection on the past year (discerning what we do and don’t want to carry on into our next year) and resolutions for the year to come. We actually slow down long enough to take some personal inventory and realign ourselves with the Story we long to be participants in. We choose to remember that the God that worked in history is still at work today.
It is great that we reflect on New Year’s, but that doesn’t cut it. My life gets swept back up into the expectations, responsibilities and culture of chaos that surrounds me and I have the potential to become an empty shell of a man (see Part 1).
What would it look like for us to slow down between running from one meeting to the next and create sustainable rhythms of introspection throughout our year?
Ultimately, if I’m not rooted in God’s Story and receiving a divine breath from YHWH, I have nothing to say.
Walking on the streets of London a couple months after my chaos detox in Costa Rica, my friend Darren Prince encouraged me to check out St. Ignatius’ Prayer of Examen (click for worksheet). It creates a place to reflect on our past 24 hours and identify areas where we have aligned or separated from the Story of God.
It creates a place to reflect and remember that the God that worked in history is still at work today.