Happily Even After
by Josh Noem
The rain has returned to Portland. Even before the omnipresent drizzle returned, however, I had begun walking the 1.5 miles to and from work instead of riding my bike.
In years prior, I either rode my bike or had Stacey drop me off on campus. This year, however, I’ve mostly been walking to and fro. It began with my interest in extending periods of light exercise throughout the day, but I’ve stuck with it because the 20-minute walk has been good for my soul as well as my body.
Something about the rhythm and the quiet lends itself to thoughtful reflection. It opens space for me to either let my mind wander, or to more fully explore ideas. At bottom, it is a period of time that is marked by a lack of interruption and structure. My life—married with three young kids and a shared professional position—is full of interruption and structure.
In fact, conversation at the dinner table with three children who now have the full power to articulate themselves often seems to be nothing but interruption. I swear, at dinner last night Stacey and were trying to talk through an aspect of work and could not finish a sentence!
And our office sits in a busy student center. While we pride ourselves in being a place where students can drop in, that benefit means that our days are regularly broken up by conversations of all kinds.
So, having unhurried, silent, reflective time to myself on my walk to and from work has been a great blessing the last few months.
It is also solid prayer time. Not that I’m lost in a deep meditative trance as I walk, but it gives me time to sort through my thoughts and feelings. Like panning for gold, I’ve been finding that as I’m sifting through situations and topics, the deeper and truer conclusions emerge.
The walks have also given me time to transition from home life to the world of work and back again. Home and work move to different rhythms and it takes time to speed up or slow down to match. I’ve heard it compared to a metronome—the “ticker” that piano players use to keep time as they play. Being at work, my metronome runs at a quick pace, and if I step into homelife with that fast rhythm, I can step on toes. It helps to have transition time in my walks—I arrive feeling ready for what lies ahead. Even if it is an evening full of interruptions.
In ministry, we say that you might get impatient with how interruptions distract you from the work you need to do, but it is important to realize that those interruptions ARE the work you need to do. The human interaction and careful listening is why we are there, the rest is just paperwork. The same can be said of family life—listening to obscure Pokemon facts, pulling them along when they grab your feet in the kitchen, and playing an imaginary football game in the living room IS the work of parenting. The rest is details.
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