Christmas Advent HERO

Taking a Break from the Relentless

Sunday’s Chicago Tribune published a column by the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mary Schmich, entitled Where do we find relief in a relentlessly jangling world? It resonated with me. Clearly, she and I live in the same news-soaked environment. My guess is that you do too.

She begins, 

It’s relentless, isn’t it?

When you read the sentence above, what popped to mind? What is the “it” that just won’t stop, that won’t give you a break, that makes it hard to breathe and think?

Part of “it,” she thinks, might be the current spate of fear-inducing news topics – to which each of us can add our own deadlines and anxieties. “Fear,” she writes, “makes everything seem more relentless.” Then she adds that our incessant connectedness likely contributes to a sense of being trapped by it all. 

On her way to a suggested coping mechanism, Schmich remembers reading an article that cited the psychological benefits of partitions on airplanes, those drapes that separate first class from economy. Allegedly, they give us folks in coach the illusion of space, the impression that we’re not trapped, the possibility of having someplace to go that isn’t Seat 32E.

Schmich thinks we need to figure out how to provide our own partitions in order to occasionally screen out the relentlessness of life. I can’t agree more.

Among the many benefits of my work here at Valpo is the break that I am obliged to take every weekday morning at 10 a.m. Granted, Morning Prayer is not required, but let’s face it, I’m a pastor on this campus. Prayer and worship are supposed to be my thing. How weird would it be if I sat in my office answering email while the people gathered right next door? 

So, even though I, like most people on campus, don’t have any direct responsibilities to make Morning Prayer happen (I have dedicated and talented colleagues that serve in that way), I feel obligated to leave my desk in the Helge Center at 9:55 every day that I’m on campus and head over to the Chapel.

It’s such a blessing.

I know that some on campus are constrained by their responsibilities from taking this break with me. I get that. But for those who are not, allow me to suggest that if you’re feeling “jangled” as Mary Schmich describes it, 20 minutes daily might be part of the solution.

It’s easy. We walk over, we sit down and the praying and singing start happening around us. For a few minutes in the middle of the morning, there’s nothing else going on. 

I’ve even taken to going without my phone. It’s weird, but it’s good.

Pr. Jim

Feb. 5, 2020

Deaconess Kristin Lewis and University Pastor James Wetzstein take turns writing weekly reflections. You can contact Deaconess Kristin here and Pastor Jim here