“Drum, dance and sing—every day!”
That was the statement a friend of mine shared a couple of years ago when I asked, “How do people survive when the world turns crazy?” She told me that some Native American tribes, who have lived with national trauma for centuries, have a saying, “Drum, dance and sing—every day!”
I was reminded of this as I have been talking with my colleagues around the country about how they are supporting their church leaders in this time of shrinking resources and ecclesiastical anxiety. Interestingly enough, a pattern seems to be developing. Church leaders who are gathering into groups are increasingly focusing on self-care and spiritual growth and support. It is not that lectionary groups or groups focusing on certain programs or missions have completely gone away. But increasingly church leaders seem to be responding to opportunities for good self-care, enjoyment, deep relationships, and spiritual nurturing.
I am not surprised. Twelve years ago I remember experiencing a similar subtle shift. I have long appreciated the first answer to the Shorter Catechism (despite its patriarchal language), “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” As I reflected on my life a few years ago, I realized that I had charged ahead in life with a laser-like focus “glorifying God” but had largely ignored the other half of the equation, “enjoying God.”
These days when I write my To Do list I almost always include time to either cycle, walk, hike or swim and carve about a half hour to play guitar. I also have become obsessive about my own spiritual self-care. With only rare exceptions I start every morning with about 25 minutes of gentle yoga and then about 45 minutes reflecting on some spiritually rich literature and engaging in a stream-of-consciousness prayer journaling practice called “Morning Pages.”
Our religious traditions have always encouraged this type of spiritual discipline and self-care, but it wasn’t until my life became terribly complicated and the world starting going crazy (or at least that I started noticing it!) that spiritual disciplines became a necessary and mandatory part of my day. I have spiritual disciplines not because I am deeply religious, but because it is how I survive!
I write this as I reflect on my role as the Presbyter for Vision and Mission and the state of our congregations these days with the story of annual declines and anxiety over our ecclesiastical futures. I know when I first started nearly a year ago that a wise mentor reminded me that this work that we do “is a marathon, not a sprint.” What I heard in that, whether he meant it or not, was that one can’t put off the “enjoyment of God” until after all the work is done. One can’t push too hard for a short season (like a sprint) with the expectation that we can catch our breath again and take care of ourselves after we cross the 100-yard finish line.
I like the Native American saying, “Drum, dance and sing—every day!” Each of us will have our own version of that. For me it is cycling, hiking, swimming and playing guitar. For you it might be gardening, quilting, cooking, and playing cards. For another it might be gathering with friends, listening to classical music and entering the world of film. For the presbytery it might be gathering in cohorts where church leaders celebrate each other, support each other and enjoy each other.
“The chief end of all of us is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.” My friends, we are in for the long haul right now. There are no easy fixes, simple answers or immediate payoffs.
Don’t forget to drum, dance and sing. Don’t forget to bike, hike and swim. Don’t forget to laugh, love and live!
Don’t forget that God wants to be enjoyed just as much as God wants to be glorified.
Have a good time!