1 Good Reason to Stop Doing So Much: thoughts prompted by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The beach is not a place to work; to read, write, or think…at least not at first…One becomes, in fact like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Rest is good

I live far from the nearest beach, but I find I do not need a beach to feel a beachy kind of lethargy. June sun alone seems to put me in this state. I sit down to write and my mind is as airy as the puffs of cottonwood that float on the air like snow. I make a to-do list, but it sits on my desk shaking its invisible finger in my face and tapping its impatient toe. I roll my eyes and turn my back on its responsibilities with the rebellion of an angry teenager.

Maybe this as it should be.

Summer is the perfect time to loosen my grip on the idea that I must do in order to be.

I strip off winter’s heavy clothes. As I do, the illusion that my life will be properly measured in the end by what I accomplished falls to the floor too. I slip on summer shorts and flip flops. My soul yearns for light trappings too. To simply be, and find it is enough.

Somewhere back in time the western world and Christians in particular began to believe the distortion that what we do is what matters most.

The source of our doing is the only thing that really matters.

1 Corinthians 13 says that if my doing doesn’t flow from love, everything I do is worthless, even if it seems right. So, I insist on pulling back. I must stop striving and know God who is love.

At first I feel guilt about this pulling back. As long as people I love are striving away, I should too. But then I realize that the fact that my life takes on a different rhythm in summer is a gift. One to be accepted with gratitude, not pushed away because it is too grand. When a gift is rejected so is the giver. The Giver in this case is the whole point.

mint from aboveSo, I walk outside barefoot and feel the grass between my toes. I pick mint from its terra cotta pot on my patio, drop it into my glass, and admire the artistry of green leaves magnified against ice. I sit outside in the dark and breathe deep under a full moon. I drive to the pool. As my arms and legs and breathing fall into the steady rhythm, water holds me up and caresses me, the sun warms me, and tension begins to float away. I actively loaf and very slowly my soul begins to quiet. I remember, finally, the command, “Be still.” I am so rarely still. Even when my body is still my mind refuses. It keeps up a constant chatter. Just on the edge of my conscious mind I rehearse tense conversations that loom on my horizon like black clouds that could begin to rotate and spawn tornados. I must be still until I learn to cast. Casting these tensions, and my other worries onto the one who cares for me rather than letting my mind spin night and day on how to fix things will be a good beginning.

When I loosen my grip on some of my doing and agree to just be, I open myself for God to strip more, to take away some of the things I can’t. He exposes my self-obsession, the way my pride obscures my view like scratched sunglasses, and makes it seem like everything is about me. I can’t force him to do it quickly though. I must learn to be still, and wait. “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good for that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25-26, ESV)        

Anne Morrow Lindbergh says, “No, no dredging of the sea bottom here…The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient…Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach waiting for a gift from the sea.”

C.S. Lewis said that St. John of the Cross called God a sea. (The Weight of Glory, p. 187)

So here far from the sea, but not far from God, I slow down, I wait, I lie empty, open, choiceless waiting for a gift.

This post, inspired by chapter 1 of Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is the first in a series of reflections.

This summer we are reading it together as an informal, open, no pressure, book club. What is stirring in you? Join our discussion on my facebook page.

Check out the introduction to this series here.

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5 Responses to 1 Good Reason to Stop Doing So Much: thoughts prompted by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

  1. Katie Sturm June 29, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    I loved this! Thank you

  2. Merrie Lea June 26, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    You continue to post, just what I need to hear. So often, I strive and fail what a relief to just be.

    • Beth Ratzlaff June 29, 2014 at 6:03 am #

      I’m so happy that these posts are speaking to you! Let’s talk sometime!


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