Sometimes you learn things and know them only as long as you need to – until the exam. Sometimes you learn things and you get lazy about remembering them because we all know Uncle Google can help with a casserole recipe, or working out what percentage 20 is of 85 or how to spell wierd/weird. Sometimes we learn things and only remember them when we suddenly really need to know that thing – our learnings lie dormant beneath the surface, but not forgotten. Sometimes we learn things in such quick succession that we never really integrate those learnings into informing our actions, beliefs, or attitudes. And sometimes we have to keep reminding ourselves of the things we have learnt, and to re-learn them in each evolving season and context, for them to really stick. For them to move from things we’ve learnt to things we KNOW.
The last two years have been the steepest learning curve of my life. Recently, Husband-man and I carved out some time to reflect on the myriad things we learnt during our time with The Simple Way. Here are just a few:
1. We learnt how to Live Present. By the time my parents had been married for 21 years they had already moved 27 times! I am a child of the diaspora – used to uprooting and moving and forming quick (if often shallow) relationships.I am prone to boredom which rears it’s ugly head every 6 months or so – sometimes the fix is easy: move all the furniture around. But I often find myself caught in a chaotic struggle, wrestling within myself to stay put, sitting on my hands even as my legs twitch to be up and out, to be PRESENT even if only for today. For me, Learning to Live Present had to express itself in tangible and intentional acts – painting our bedroom even if we were only going to be in it for 11 more months; gathering beautiful things even if I had to get rid of them again; and investing in friendships even if only for a season. My greatest learning in this regard came from our boss-man, Darin: “Always unpack your suitcase at a hotel, fold your clothes, and hang up your jacket, even if you’re only there for one night. Be fully present where you are”.
2. We learnt how to Make Space for Interruptions and Disruptions. Husband-man wrote a bit on this one here and here. Our days seemed to be full of Interruption – folk knocking on our door needing everything from lifts to a blanket to food. Children stopping by to borrow the bike pump or sidewalk chalk or just to chat. A friend needing help getting a family member into rehab. Interruptions were those things that gave us temporary pause – required us to lay down our forks or our books, to get up from our sleep, to close our computer for a moment. Once dealt with though we could generally pick up where we left off and continue on our previous path.
Disruptions were a whole different game. These were the things that threw us into confusion or disorder, impeded what we were doing and threw us off course – redirecting our energy time and resources into fundamentally different directions. Disruptions took us to places and situations we often didn’t know how to deal with. Fights broke out and we stopped what we were doing to call the police or pray or intervene or stand helplessly by. Emergencies reared their head periodically. I found myself on the way to eat lunch one minute and chasing a friend down the main road after she jumped out of an ambulance the next. Disruption was the drugged, beaten and abused woman sitting on our front step – interruption would have been cleaning her up and sending her on her way; disruption meant figuring out how to care well for her today and tomorrow and next week because now she was a part of our lives. I like to think of disruption as the face I haven’t prepared my face to meet.
We learnt the value of making room for both of these – and we recognized a key dimension of Christ’s interaction with those around him. He was constantly being interrupted and disrupted – the running refrain seems to be “He was on his way from a to b, when…” We learnt to leave home earlier and walk slower – taking 20 minutes to walk the 2 blocks to the office – to create space for the interruption. We learnt to only answer the door when we felt able to respond with love and grace to whatever was on the other side – and if we couldn’t, to rather not open it at all. We learnt to invite someone to walk alongside us as we navigated the disruptions. To invite an extra set of eyes and wisdom. I am still learning how to let go of the disruptions at the end of the day because they can be heavy and burdensome even in their richness and opportunity.
3. We learnt the value of Rhythms. We learnt that rhythms are a great way to establish habits of presence – ways of being rooted even during chaos and transition and in spaces that are temporary; and that rhythms are a great way to sustain healthy interactions with interruption and disruption. Our weeks followed a similar pattern of morning prayer; work; connection with neighbors; spiritual formation; connection with housemates through shared meals, games, and house meetings; date nights; play and rest. No, we didn’t stick ritually to these; but we did find that carving out specific times for these things meant that they happened and didn’t get consumed by the ever present interruptions or derailed by the periodic disruptions or overlooked by a sense of finite presence. These things helped us to Live Fully Present and to Make Space for Interruptions and Disruptions. They kept us grounded, kept our focus and priorities straight, and allowed us to invest deeply in relationships and experiences and life in Kensington.
I know there’s no exam on these, and Uncle Google wouldn’t be able to help us if we forgot them. So all that is left is to keep reminding ourselves that we learnt these things until eventually we KNOW them.