Thursday, March 24, 2011

Come Sit With Me

Come sit with me a while…
they are not long,
smiles and tears.

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Retirement Home. Every time I enter, residents are always just sitting there in the lobby, in the foyer, on an outside bench. Alone, or in groups. Inviting contact, conversation. Usually I’m too busy for anything but a quick, “Hi,” as I run in with arms laden with more Stuff we think Mother can’t live without in her new digs.

Come sit with me a while, eyes beg. Talk to me. Engage with me.

Time is running out.

My grandmother had a magnet on her refrigerator with a calligraphy of the saying at the top. I think one of my aunts, a kindred spirit, gave it to her. Originally, it had some sweet little flowers painted on it. They have faded to invisibility by now, but I’ve saved it as a reminder of my grandmother, and a lesson I learned from her.

Nenie had raised 6 children as a young widow, and felt deeply the silence of the empty nest her rambling old house became after they flew away. She loved nothing more than for a visitor to come “sit with her a spell.”

I didn’t need much coaxing.

As a teenager and young woman, I used to drive to my grandmother’s house in Gainesville (GA) whenever I was in need of some serious TLC. It was a sweet refuge from the tumultuous culture of the early 70’s that I inhabited. I’d sit on her scratchy, worn couch and watch soap operas with her. We’d read Ladies Home Journal simultaneously, but individually, sharing tidbits of knowledge we’d gleaned. “Did you know that mayonnaise takes water rings off furniture?” or “Did you hear that Liz Taylor’s* getting divorced again?” (“Glory be.”) Then we’d gossip about everybody we knew… mostly other relatives. Sometimes she’d tell me things about her childhood that her own children never knew. And then I’d get grilled about my boyfriends. But I wasn’t too old to beg for a back tickle or two. Or take a long nap on that scratchy old sofa.

The smells of delicious Southern food wafted into the room as we lounged around chatting or just sitting together in comfortable silence. She usually had something on the stove… just in case one of her boys stopped by for a minute. Green beans, creamed corn, fried okra, cornbread… just in case.

Those ‘sitting times’ are among the best memories of my life. Wasting time, just being together in the warmth of close relationship and unconditional love. No agenda. Nothing to “accomplish.”

But life is so different now.

The world has sped up. And will continue accelerating until… what?

There are few who take the time to stay and sit a spell.

I’ve been fascinated by a slew of recent articles and news stories on the depersonalization wrought by technology.

Talking on the phone is rapidly becoming archaic. Texting, tweeting, and facebook are becoming the primary means of communication in our world.

So now, not only do we not have time to stay and sit with each other, we don’t even take the time to hear each other’s voices.

I entered the texting world kicking and screaming, but eventually realized that if I wanted to be able to track my kids down, it would have to be a necessary evil. I do think it is a useful tool in many ways. For example, I’m still old-fashioned enough not to want to scream my personal conversations out in public places, so if someone calls me when I’m at the doctor’s office or in a restaurant, I can silence that sucker in a hurry and text the person that I’ll try to call them back later.

I do realize the pitfalls of increasingly depersonalized communication, however. If I’m tired or emotionally drained, I may not have the energy for a lengthy phone conversation. (Don’t we all have friends and loved ones who are loathe to let us off the phone when we say we need to get off?) With a text, you can state the pertinent information in abbreviated manner, and then type a breezy “gtg.” C ya.

But I’ve noticed that the texting thing is already impairing intimacy in a few of my relationships. I think sometimes people are afraid of the vulnerability that intimacy requires. So typing takes the place of true communication, and silences voices, with all of their wonderful nuances. It erects a wall behind which one can hide. Keeps people at a comfortable distance…

is an instrument of control.

And without the gift of invested time in interpersonal communion, relationships wither and die.

This morning, my quiet time was lengthy, but scattered. I jumped from one passage to another, one devotional to another. None of it was really alleviating the slight feeling of dread I was feeling about the obligations of the day. I have to do some things I really don’t want to do. Always a problem with this strong-willed, self-willed woman.

Something from the morning’s hodge-podge quiet time led me to pray, “What do I owe you?”

As usual, I tried to think of the answer before it came from outside of me. “Well, you owe me your life, for one,” were some of the words I put into God’s mouth.

But after waiting a while, trying to empty me of myself and my own opinions, these were the words that came in an interior, ‘other’ voice:

Praise. Trust. Time.

I’ve been working on the first two. They’ve been my spiritual focus recently.

But time?

I don’t have enough of that these days.

I realized immediately that this was not about time spent in service to others, or time “doing things for the Lord.” (btw, I hate that expression. As if.)

Not even about time spent in study or, necessarily, in focused prayer.

It is about time spent in the true communion of loving intimacy.

It is about wasting time with God.

Just hanging out with Him.

Sitting a while.

I have a book with the title Why Not Waste Time With God? sitting, unread, on my bedroom bookshelf. Maybe one day I’ll take the time to read it.

Even if I don’t, the title fascinates me.

What the world and the Upside-Down-Kingdom consider as waste may be two entirely different things. Conversely, what is considered productive in each may be opposites.

The woman with the alabaster jar "wasted" the costly perfume on the feet of Jesus. (Luke 7:37)

Our lives spin on, whirlwinds of motion and activity. Technology and distraction.

But time is running out for all of us.

This world and everything in it are passing away…

passing away.

And deep calls to deep, the Spirit invites…

Come sit with me a while…

they are not long,

smiles and tears.


(* Weird. I wrote this yesterday, before I heard that the iconic figure had "passed away."  Then, after I published it, my uncle sent out an email reminding all the relatives that today is Nenie's birthday. I had completely forgotten.)


jmb77vol said...

Kim, beautiful thoughts and words, as always. Thanks for a great reminder to embrace the "wasteful" moments--with those we love here on earth and with Jesus.

Allison said...

Great post for me to read as I just got back from the doctor and my sweet little girl has the flu. We were suppose to go to the beach. But, instead I get to love on her and pray the rest of us don't get it. I am going to try and be intentional about spending time with Him. Not with myself.

Thank you....

kentucky mom said...

wow, this was perfect for today. i continue to 'kick and scream' my way into using more technology and i'm thinking that's good. If some of us still have time to 'sit a while' (especially without the techno distractions in hand), maybe our older peers, young children and anyone in-between who needs some face to face communication will not be forgotten. and neither will the skill of listening and just being with people. powerful words, kim. thank you.

Debi said...

Thank you for this post Kim (and all of your others!). I struggle with relaxing, "doing nothing", even going on vacation. Thank you for the reminder how important it is to just BE. Blessings to you and your family.

Kim said...

Blessings to you all for these wonderful comments!
Trust me, "just sitting" can be one of the hardest things in the world for me. But so worth it.

Allison, I'm so sorry about your cancelled trip. Stuff like that happens to me all the time. I pray that your time home together will have surprise joys.

Anonymous said...

"the Lord answered, “...few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

It is a challenge to have a Mary heart in a very Martha world. But simply sitting at the feet of Jesus is "what is better and will not be taken away"!!

As always I am so thankful for the illustrations that you so beautifully weave through your posts that cause us to ponder our responses in all our relationships!!

Blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

"And without the gift of invested time in interpersonal communion, relationships wither and die"

This statement really spoke to me. I have a friend that lives across the world and I miss her greatly. Even if we cannot talk by phone, or sit a spell together, we can talk by e-mail. Instead she only does Facebook. I don't do Facebook. I want the relationship and I want my friend to have interpersonal communication with me, not just one-liners and a mass audience. Our relationship has withered and is dying, something I never expected to occur.

Thank you for this. I will go sit a spell right now.

Kim said...

This post is so important and just what I needed to hear. It is hard for me to "sit still" with God, or with anyone for that matter at times!

As an ICU nurse, I am reminded of how we are often forced to "sit still" and watch things spin out of our control. For example, watching a grieving dad stroking the foot of his 26 year old daughter struggling to breathe with metastatic melanoma, saying to me, "I wish it was me not her."

That experience and your post are like God screaming through a megaphone to take time with Him and those you love...


Anonymous said...

Are you familiar with centering prayer? I have recently begun to practice it again, and I feel a revival to my spirit and my capabilities. I highly recommend it.

Cheri said...

There's a song by Sarah Kelly, "Sit With Me Awhile" that speaks perfectly with your words. The link is:
You'll have to cut and paste as links aren't active on comments.

I do not sit well. I am a "flitter."

It has been one of the hardest things for me to learn how to do. Watching TV with Ethan or listening to his music with him or even taking him for a walk, I want to be doing something else on the side. He notices it and always asks me to stop. To close the laptop, to put the phone down, to close the book or magazine. He knows when I'm not present.
I always feel like a dog when I get caught, but he is sweet and forgiving. How many prayers I prayed for one more minute with him only to waste them by not being present and just sitting with him.
Thanks for the words. Wise and tender, as always.