Last Friday afternoon, I donned my running clothes and wheezed the mile and a half to August’s school, pushing Brooksie in the double stroller. After I picked him up and we all played awhile in the nearby park, the boys climbed in, I set out the snack of goldfish and made promises of hot cocoa at home, just as the sun began to set and the wind picked up its chill. It was a fifty-something degree day in the sunshine. Now our bare hands and noses were red and raw.
The boys were cozy with a blanket on them and coats and hats. But I had a t-shirt and fleece, which was not enough. I wanted to get home. I’m a little out of shape. I’ve gone from running four times a week to running one to two and it’s showing, especially when I’m pushing two kids in a stroller up the hill. (Why is the way home always uphill???)
About three blocks from our house, we cross a pretty big road. It’s three lanes on either side and there are always cars moving fast. I’ve (thankfully) taught August to be very careful about streets. You NEVER cross the street unless you’re holding a grown-up’s hand. You ALWAYS wait for the light to flash from “red hand” to “green man.” August knows the rules. But at that light, unlike most of the lights around the city, the crosswalk signals don’t work unless you press the button. I know that crossing. I’ve walked it many, many times. I know that the signal lasts as long as the green light does for the cars beside me. I know there’s not a turn signal. I know how to look for the cars that are turning and may not see me. I feel confident.
So as I was running up to the crosswalk and I saw the light had changed to green for the cars, I paid no heed to pressing the button just for the green man to tell me I could go. I knew I could go. I just went, looking to the sides for the turning cars to see me.
Halfway through the crossing, I heard August screaming from his spot in the stroller, “No, Mommy! No! We can’t!”
When I got to the other side, I realized he was in state of terror. “I thought the cars were going to hit us,” he said. “My heart is beating so hard,” he said.
Of course, I began to assure him. "I would never cross the street unless I was sure the cars weren’t coming," I said. "If you have a driver’s license and you’re a grown up then you can know when it’s your turn to cross even if you haven’t hit the button on the cross walk,” I said.
“But I was so scared, Mom.”
“I won’t do that again, buddy. I won’t cross the street unless I’ve hit the button, unless the green walking man is flashing in front of us. I won’t do it.”
He leaned back in his seat and I began the last leg of my run, asking myself why I needed to blaze through that intersection anyway. I know I’ve been formed by a culture of hurry, a culture of franticness. As I finished those last three blocks toward home, I kept hearing that word in my mind: Enough, Enough.
Sometimes it feels like everything in this world is asking me: Are you fast enough? Are you fast enough to play with your kids AND keep your house tidy? Are you fast enough to serve your family and your community? Are you fast enough to be an interesting person and good friend? Can you pile enough into your life without collapsing under it, without dropping all you’re balancing all over the floor?
But what would alter if we shifted the question? What if we began asking one other if we are living slow enough? Have you been slow enough to savor? Have you been slow enough to play hard and laugh big? Have you been slow enough to stop and sit awhile? Have you been slow enough to say hello to the neighbor? Have you been slow enough to be thankful?
It’s a small resolve, this one to slow my stroller, even when the light is green. To slow myself long enough to press a button and give my son security. It’s a practice in changing what matters: People over Time. (Isn't it crazy that we should have to remind ourselves?)
We are shaped by a world moving fast beside us. But when we look up, the clouds are floating with deliberate, careful force. Maybe we were made for that good gentle pace. Maybe we were made for long looks and real conversations.
Lent begins this Wednesday. This Lent I’m pursuing Enough. I’m going to practice a real Sabbath. A day without computers: without Twitter and Facebook, without ought-tos and check-lists. I’m also going to close my computer at 9 pm every night and practice quiet and rest my brain from the screen.
That’s all. No giving up things, no adding more prayer. It’s a simple pursuit really: this resting life. And simple is the hardest sort of pursuit we can do, isn’t it? Bringing the run to a full stop. Looking and waiting. Not because we have to, but because it’s good.
What about you? What are your plans this Lent? What will be your practice?
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