by Father Mark Goldasich
Hey, I’m serious about that headline. Please stop for 30 seconds or so.
There. Feel better? Now, take a few moments to read this little story:
A farmer awoke one morning, looked out his window and found that overnight a field of daffodils had sprung up around his home. “How beautiful!” he exclaimed. “I’d like to stay and wander among the flowers, but I have to plow the north wheat field today.” When he returned that evening, the daffodils had withered and died.
The next day, the farmer saw two small sparrows perched on the branch outside his window. Their feathers were smooth and dark and their song soared joyfully about him. “What beautiful music!” he sighed. “I’ll come and listen after I’ve milked the cows.” But when he returned, the birds had flown away.
The following day, the farmer awoke and heard the clatter of hooves on his front drive. He looked out the window and saw a great white stallion dancing and cavorting in the sunlight, inviting him to ride through the fields. “You are the most beautiful horse I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I’ll return to ride off with you as soon as I have mended the south fence.” When he returned, the stallion was gone.
Each morning for many years, the farmer witnessed some new wonder outside his window. But there was a farm to care for and he never found time to stop and share in these miracles. (Adapted from Paul J. Wharton’s “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers.”)
There’s a four-letter word, found in that story, that I encourage you to use often: STOP. Most of us are so busy each day that we only remember to take time for ourselves when we’re so exhausted or ill that our bodies force us to rest.
Like the farmer above, when we fail to stop — when we’re constantly driven by our work or our commitments — we fail to really notice and appreciate the miracles in life. And, by being so tired that we simply react to what life throws at us, we then open ourselves to all sorts of grief. An unguarded comment, an angry outburst or an impulsive choice, for example, can have long-lasting, devastating consequences.
In his helpful and entertaining book, “Why Make Yourself Crazy?” author C. Gaynor McTigue writes: “There’s nothing wrong with doing nothing. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to set aside time each day to do just that. Nothing. Sit and relax. . . . You’re grabbing the reins of a runaway team of horses and pulling them back into an easy, manageable pace. You’re freeing up your mind. Getting control of yourself. Learning that living is not just doing . . . but being. Cut yourself some slack now and then and enjoy some good, salutary nothing time. Why make yourself crazy?”
A new year is always a great time to try something different and beneficial. Why not stop some of the insanity in your life and replace it with peacefulness? Practicing that four-letter word — stop — is a simple way to make life, well, simpler.
Here are some quick examples:
• When you’re out shopping and reach for some “impulse item” in the checkout line, mentally say, “Stop.” Very often, that split second is enough to help you resist buying what you probably don’t really need.
• While driving, a whispered “Stop!” to yourself when someone cuts you off or doesn’t signal a turn can prevent you from honking your horn or yelling at the offending party . . . and thus keep your blood pressure in check.
• Instead of complaining about the cold weather, taking a moment to stop and reflect can shift your thinking into being grateful for the blessing of a warm home or a working heater in your car.
• When tempted to fly off the handle with a child’s “energetic” behavior, taking a second to stop can provide a different perspective: for example, being grateful that your child isn’t spending the day in a hospital battling some serious illness.
Taking time to rest is nothing new to us of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Third Commandment directs us to keep holy the Sabbath. A beautiful explanation of what this means comes from Father Anthony Oelrich, the rector of the cathedral in St. Cloud, Minn., who writes that the Sabbath “was made for human beings, for human flourishing, not human beings for the sake of observing laws concerning the Sabbath. Or another way to say it, the point of observing a weekly Sabbath rest is to help human beings experience authentic life.” The Sabbath is a gift, an invitation to take a step back each week from our normal duties, to reorient our priorities, and to realign our vision with that of God.
It’s too bad that the days of the telegram are over. Its traditional way of stating messages can be a vivid reminder of the importance of taking a break.
Wow, I don’t believe it, but this telegram just arrived for you:
ARTICLE READ STOP ALL ELSE CAN WAIT STOP PRAY NAP TREASURE BLESSINGS STOP MAKE TIME DAILY TO . . . STOP