Sabbatical Diary – July 31

What are you doing here …

Time for “nothing” certainly seems to me to escape us. Seriously, when was the last time you planned to do nothing? Really: nothing. Not listen to music, not do some chores (no matter how simple), not watch or listen to a ballgame, not read a book or magazine. Not a game of solitaire on your smartphone or tablet, and no writing in a journal either. Really now, when was the last time you were not “doing” something? Be honest.

I’m not asking, “When was the last time you were unproductive?” I’m asking, when was the last time you set aside time for “nothing.” Possibly, you cannot remember. It is hard for me. You, too? Most of us, I propose, never think about time for nothing.

You will recall that part of the focus of this series comes from the encounter Elijah has with God at the cave on Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19ff). In the encounter the voice of God tells Elijah to go to the mouth of the cave. I wonder how long he sat there. I wonder what he did with his time. I’m sure there was no iPad or Gameboy or app for him to retrieve from his bag or pack. How long before “nothing” – nothing … and God.

Nothing and God: it was not the first time. Our English translations make a more comfortable story of Genesis 1 and following than the Hebrew text really gives us. We say, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth ….” The Hebrew is more sparce: Beginning. God. Then, from nothing: heavens … and earth … and more. It all begins with God … and nothing.

“Nothing,” it appears is very powerful, liberating, creative, and, it seems inspiring “stuff.” It is the starting point of novel or poem, every melody and canvas. There was nothing; then from nothing, something.

Time for nothing can happen anywhere you want: a chair in a corner, a bench in a garden or on a sidewalk, a boat, a porch swing or jostling board. The possibilities are limitless. What are our excuses for not doing “nothing?” Limitless.

What comes from nothing? Something. God, who created us in the Divine Image, is our witness.

Nothing. Limitless. Something.

What are you doing here …

********  The Sabbatical Diary is published with gratitude and appreciation to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit, Michigan for granting me sabbatical time and funding, and to the Graduate Theological Foundation, Oxford Foundation Fellowship, which made access to Oxford University for reading and research possible.