I am reading Mark Yaconelli’s latest book, Downtime: Helping Teenagers Pray. As I read it I am struck at how appropriate the concept of “downtime” is to not just kids, but adults. When Mark writes about downtime, it’s not about vegging in front of the TV or blowing brain cells on video games. He’s writing about time taken to be intentionally silent, listening to the rhythms of our bodies, the sounds around us, and, most especially, for the presence of God in our lives. So often we model for our youth a life of busyness—unfortunately, and often times unintentionally, living out the old puritan motto: “Idyll hands are the devil’s tools.” But, then we complain that both we and our kids are way too busy!
Downtime can be spent in gentle silence, breathing prayers, journaling, or even entering into a daily examen. It’s about spending time with God, reflecting on God’s work in our lives, and trying to be purposeful in all we do (or as much as is humanly possible). The more I read Mark’s book, the more I realize I do not have enough downtime in my day! I pray all the time. I read the Bible. I read other inspirational books (ok, mostly heady theology stuff, but I dig it and get a lot out of it…the latest being Doug Pagitt’s Christianity Worth Believing: Hope-filled, Open-armed, Alive-and-well Faith for the Left Out, Left Behind, and Let Down in us All, a tough, frank, but very worthwhile read with an awesome subtitle!). But rarely do I just sit, breathe, and bask in the reality of God’s presence in my life. So often I approach my time with God with an agenda, and usually not God’s agenda. Either I need help with something so I ask, or I want to do something and proceed to answer my own questions and claim my answer is from God (when usually it just serves my own ego instead of God’s agenda of hope and freedom).
I spoke this past Sunday night at youth group about the reality of God’s divine revelation in and through Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. We asked a lot of questions. But, the final moment in the night came when we talked about what it meant for us to say that God was uniquely revealed through Jesus and unpacked the meaning of “Son of God.” What Jesus gave us was a model of how to relate to God. We cannot relate as equals, though we can relate as co-creators. We cannot relate to God as gods, but we can relate to the intimate and very intentional relationship between Jesus and God—so much so, that Jesus said, “The Father and I are one” (John 10.30). Yet, Jesus also admitted that his knowledge was limited and that only God the Father knew certain things (Matthew 24.36, Mark 13.32).
The truth comes to me in that Jesus took time out and spent time in retreat (Sabbath). He stopped and rested in the presence of God. He was intentional about his relationship with the Holy One in order to be more in tune with what God was doing. In other words, he was intentional about joining in on God’s creative work and being a co-creator as God intended for humanity.
I encouraged our youth to take some downtime—time spent in silence, even just 5 minutes per day. I told them next week we’ll talk about their experiences. As always, I told them that there may be times when they don’t feel anything, but to try to stay in the moment as long as possible. I told them there are lots of times I spend in prayer when I just don’t feel like praying, I don’t feel God’s presence, and I just don’t feel very spiritual or connected. Though I can’t feel it in my heart, I can at least trust that I know in my mind that God is present and be ok with at least that.
We’ll see what happens.