Recently, I heard someone say that they feel as if their life has been on pause for the past year. The remark caught my attention because I’ve been thinking about the spiritual discipline of statio, often referred to as the holy pause.
In her book Wisdom Distilled for the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today, author Joan Chittister writes:
Statio is the practice of stopping one thing before we begin another…to make us conscious of what we’re about to do and make us present to the God who is present to us. Statio is the monastic practice that sets out to get our attention before life goes by in one great blur…
One great blur sounds like familiar territory. As I’ve been reading about the discipline of statio, I’ve become uncomfortably aware of how not present I can be to God and to the people I love. This shows up most clearly with my youngest daughter, the theology grad student who still lives in my house.
The pandemic brought us closer together – way closer – as in right up in each other’s business. Any given day will find her spread out all over the living room, buried under a blanket and stacks of books, papers scattered everywhere. I’ll be in the cabin or on the porch by the creek – reading, thinking, writing, not writing, wrestling with writing. Eventually, I try to sneak into the house for a cup of coffee, making sure to radiate a serious I’m-thinking-don’t-bother-me vibe in the direction of the living room scholar who reads NT Greek but clearly doesn’t read vibes.
Mom – can I ask you a question? Mom, could you read the final draft on my priesthood of all believers paper? Mom, have you ever heard of transubstantiation or antinomianism or hypostatic union or fill-in-the-blank?
On good days, my eyes glaze over, and I pretend to listen politely. On my not-so-good days, I get irritated and tell her to figure it out herself. Even if it doesn’t look like I”m writing, I growl, I’m writing! Holy, holy, holy. Yep – that’s precisely what Jesus would do.
But when I pause before entering the house, making myself present to God, first and then to Hana, I find that I see her differently. I cherish her, and that moment we have together becomes holy. While I still don’t understand what she’s talking about half the time, I’m interested, engaged, and willing to learn. I’m fully present.
But it’s not only about staying present to people. I’ve also noticed that I can walk through the woods behind our house, seeing nothing and hearing less. With my spirit disengaged, my body plodding numbly through space, the wheels of my mind churn out reams of nothingness. When life is a blur, nothing is sacred.
Have I always been this oblivious, or is this how a pandemic year of life-on-pause has affected me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? I don’t think any of us fully know how the past year has changed us. Not yet.
I do know that I want to live an intentional life as I follow Jesus – to do what he would do, and love as he would love. Jesus walked in unbroken communion with his Father. He lived ever-present to the people around him, listening, loving, encouraging, healing. He lived connected to creation, keenly aware of the birds in the air and the lilies of the field.
I can’t grow to be like Jesus without practicing life as he lived it, so I’ve started to make this holy pause between one thing and the next part of my daily discipline. Before I cross a threshold, enter a conversation, or answer an email, I take a deep breath and turn my heart to God in the moment.
Time for coffee.
Breathe, Patt. Just breathe.