The home we moved into seven years ago has a gate in the driveway. I see more and more of those these days and, though it is still new for me, I understand it is meant to provide security. Gates are like locks I suppose: if someone is determined to break in, they still will do it, but it will take them a little longer and perhaps it deters those less determined. The appearance of the gate is more substantial than the reality.
More than making me feel more secure in my home, the gate has had another fairly significant effect on me. I have to stop in my car and wait for about ten seconds while it opens. At first that was very frustrating. Here I am sitting in the driveway, ready to proceed into the world or into my own yard, and I have to wait for the gate ever so slowly to open so that I may pass through.
Slowly, though, I am learning to embrace those ten seconds as an enforced pause in my life. Often my home is a safe place that is very different from my work world where crises and trauma abound. I am finding that sitting in the driveway and waiting for ten seconds is helping me be aware of what I am about to face as I leave home and head into the world. It is helping me realize that, while God calls me to be faithful to the various crises I face, I do not face them alone. Further, those crises are often the places where I find God’s presence in increased measure. As I sit and wait for permission to pass, a deep breath of preparation is being met with an assuring voice: “I am not only here in the safety; I am there in whatever pain you encounter.”
Then there is the return home and, again, another enforced pause. I’m ready to get home but it’s not quite time. There are ten more seconds to sit and wait for passage. And, again, a brief time to consider what I have dealt with and what I may deal with once inside. Yes, there is safety here and nurture, but our homes and families are places of perhaps the bigger challenges we face. People we live with and love are growing and changing all the time. They are experiencing pain and suffering. And they are so important to us that our dealings with them can be even harder than our dealings with people outside the family. We go through a lot together as families and have so much riding on the relationships. A little time to pause and prepare for entry into that world is a blessing as well.
The pause at the gate is a time of prayer if I will allow it. I am pretty good at beginning my day in prayer and reflection but I am finding the extra ten seconds built twice into my days is helping me understand that God is accompanying me as I go out and return. He is in the peace and calm I experience at home and in the world. He is in the pain and challenge I experience in the world and at home. He is not something I carry with me so much as I am someone he is carrying with him.
Our society has been going through an enforced pause for the past two months. Many of the things that make up our lives have been set aside. Many have spent more time in the safety and peculiar challenges of their own homes. Our daily rhythms have been interrupted even for those of us who have still been able to go to our places of work. Most of us found this enforced pause a hardship at first and then learned to embrace it more effectively. By now we may have reached a place of frustration but the pause is not yet completely finished. The gate is beginning to open slowly. We may be busting a gut to get back out there. Or we may be anxious and not quite ready for all that awaits us. As the pause continues, there is the opportunity for us to be prayerful and mindful.
Building in pauses in our regular schedule is good for our hearts and souls, even our bodies. That practice helps us develop the ability to respond to our circumstances instead of merely reacting to one thing after another. Embracing the pauses life thrusts upon us, rather than fighting against them, can be good for us as well. We can take the lessons we learn in these pauses, those we choose and those which are chosen for us, into our worlds and back into our homes.
Pause and give thanks, pause and seek guidance, pause just to take a deep breath and empty out some stress. As we engage these sacred times, God becomes more and more real for us.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.