The staff at The Well is committing to find “five minutes of peace” daily in Advent. (Join us! Find the details here.) For the next few weeks, we’re sharing reflections on our own experiences of this practice. We hope that hearing what this is like encourages you during your own Advent and gives you a peek behind the curtain at the people who make Women in the Academy and Professions happen.
“Do you want to pick out your clothes for tomorrow?” I asked my nine-year-old son just before tucking him into bed on a Wednesday night.
“You know I’m not that kind of person,” he replies with complete sincerity.
And I can relate. Even if I was that kind of person, I hardly can keep my head above water this time of year, let alone plan the night before what I will wear tomorrow. As a graduate student, working part-time, and doing my best to manage the schedules of three kids 10 and under, anything extra seems like it would tip the scale. This season brings with it a plethora of “extras” as well — a holiday concert for my fifth grader, basketball practices and games for my third grader, tap dance lessons for my first grader, and don’t forget final presentations and exams for my own graduate student schedule.
So in the desire to do something for Advent, I feel like I can barely muster the time, space, and energy. The idea of a daily reading seems pleasant, but I feel just about done with reading anything at this point in the semester. Even our family Advent devotional each night can feel like a chore.
“So where do I find five minutes of peace?” I asked my husband as we sat together in the spare minutes we have together before we head to the bus stop to wait for our children and the evening frenzy to begin.
“Right now,” he suggested.
So we decided to just sit together hand in hand, on the couch, in front of the lit Christmas tree, with the timer set. Five minutes. We don’t talk. We just sit. Present together. In peace.
We feel our shoulders lower. Our breath slows.
I’ve been working twice a week at a drug and alcohol outpatient recovery center this fall for my graduate practicum. And while it has only been seven hours a week, the heaviness of it shaped me in ways I could not have anticipated.
In the discipline of taking five minutes each day to be still, I am finding that the heaviness falls away. And when I quiet myself enough to let the stuff of life settle, I can sense the presence of Christ in the stillness.
On several occasions during these five minutes, I have had songs come to mind. Lest you think it’s all deep and profound, my mental playlist has included Justin Timberlake’s "Can’t Stop the Feeling" thanks to the influence of my elementary school age children.
But on one occasion, a few of the lyrics to the song "I Will Find a Way" by Jason Gray and Andy Gullahorn came to mind,
At the end of this run down tenement hall
Is the room of a girl I know
She cowers behind all the dead bolt locks
Afraid of the outside world
So how should I come to the one I love
I will find a way
Many thieves and collectors have used that door
But they only brought her shame
So she won’t even open it anymore
Still I will find a way
I could call out her name with love through the walls
But condemnation is all she hears
I could break down the door and take her into my arms
But she might die from the fear
So how should I come to the one I love
I will find a way, I will find a way
Thinking of these lyrics while still silently holding my husband’s hand in silence, I was struck by the importance of presence. I thought of the women I worked with this semester at my graduate practicum, overcoming drug and alcohol addiction, and in many ways just needing someone to be present with them, with empathy rather than condemnation. And how Jesus came to us as an infant to rest in the arms of Mary — a young girl who could have easily been cast aside — as the savior of the world.
And then the timer goes off. Five minutes. A brief encounter with the infant Jesus. And we’re off to the bus stop to gather our children.