By Travis Hill
At some point during the summer I told myself, “Man, I can’t wait for school to start again.” Then people began asking me if I was nervous or excited for the new school year, which I was a bit of both, but then our back-to-school kickoff arrived. That last Wednesday in August came and went, and there I understood I was back where I belonged. Much like you know, summer is a perfect season to intentionally spend more time with students. They have more time off, so we should capitalize on that. However, as an introvert, the constant week-to-week activities can wear me down like none other. Needless to say, I was quite ready for school to start. I craved the routine that came with a weekly planning session, a weekly sermon, and a weekly gathering of students.
Despite the praying, reading, and writing involved to craft a sermon, despite the battles with Photoshop and iMovie to make announcements come alive, despite the futility of getting all of the information you need from a middle schooler in one text message to register them for an event, the weekly work is where I thrive. And it’s not because I have a set schedule, but rather I can take time out of my day and focus on God exclusively. I can take an hour to pray and write, to think and meditate. This seems strange, right? I should be making time for God every day. But when I get bogged down in the summer, I slump a bit and find my solitude better spent napping.
Thomas Merton wrote, “The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not something to be known and studied; it is to be lived. Like all life, it grows sick and dies when it is uprooted from its proper element.” It took me a while to realize my proper element was a daily process of reading, meditating, and writing. Over the last year, I spent the first part of my morning, before anyone else comes into the office, connecting with God through words. Not only do I write out my own thoughts, but I pen prayers to God. And more often than not I have found in this process the direction I needed to be heading that day. More often than not, it wasn’t the direction I intended, but rather the direction that God sent me.
I don’t know your church background or where you are now, but I only really discovered and sought after the spiritual disciplines in the last few years. Terms like: praying the hours, lectio divina, solitude, meditation, silence, fasting, sabbath, and soul friendship always felt strange to me. But over the years I have learned from myself that my soul craves these. My heart needs silence and solitude. When you’re with students a lot, and your heart breaks for them and the struggles they go through, it’s easy to take all of that fear and pain home. But sometimes your heart is telling you that it needs a break, to get away from all of that hurt. Daily, I need to shut everything out to meditate and write. How can I ever find God if there is no space in me? How can I find the direction I need to go if I’m filling my day with so much stuff and not enough God?
Despite my love of weekly meetings, sometimes the routine breaks me as well. It is easy to get in a rut week-to-week, too. We write, think, plan, outreach and then rinse and repeat for the next week. It is also in these spaces where I find I need God to help center and direct me. Trusting that God will speak to and lead me is merely the seed by which beauty blooms. Merton wrote once again that,
“Faith alone can give us the light to see that God’s will is to be found in our everyday life. Without this light, we cannot see to make the right decisions. Without this certitude we cannot have supernatural confidence and peace. We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened.”
Find your balance. Try new things, new ways to connect with Christ, but do so intentionally. Do so with the idea that this spiritual life of ours should not be boiled down to staff meetings, crazy games, email lists, and calendar events, but rather a wholehearted focus on where the Spirit is leading us. Find that place your soul seeks.