A REFLECTION ON STILLNESS

SEBLEWENGEL DANIEL

In my experience as a wife, mother, academic, and leader, a number of interrelated battles confront me. One such battle ground is restlessness.

I catch myself almost running from within and sometimes physically too. Even when my body is at home, my mind roams the earth. I feel this internal sense of urgency at home, work place and even during private times set aside for spiritual communion. It is a continual push to keep moving, quickly get done with whatever I am working on and move on to the next task. My kids stop me, at times and tell me that I only pretend to listen to them. ‘But I have so much on my plate’, I tell myself, and justify the need to keep moving. This nonstop running makes me too tired many times. When I put my head down to sleep at night, thoughts of unfinished projects keep me half awake and yet I get immobilized at times.

Perhaps, you too struggle with a restlessness which disguises itself as the call for efficiency. Maybe you too have ‘several pots on fire’ and try to stir them all at once. Maybe you are losing the ability for a healthy slowing down in order to enjoy what is in your life. I spent my formative years in the rural parts of Ethiopia, and one of my fond memories comes from the pure delight of chewing on sugarcane stalks. Extracting the juice, however, requires chewing on the stalks long enough. Similarly, running from one task to the other can limit the meaningful enjoyment I ‘extract’ from the work I am entrusted with. It affects my ability to laugh at small things; in these moments, I like to pause and enjoy the relationships that have been given to me.

It seems that COVID-19 has slowed most people down, at least physically. In many respects, I was given what I would call a ‘forced Sabbath’. I had to slow down.  While I was working on making time for it, the physical fellowship with my Christian community was suddenly gone.  It was such a difficult realization that visiting people or being visited by our loved ones is no more a matter of choice! We always thought it was up to us to make time for such things, but now, we cannot! The warm physical embrace is no more! What strange times!

I imagine many of us are being forced to take a ‘physical Sabbath.’ But lately I’ve caught myself thinking: is my mind at rest? Am I mindful of what goes in and out of my mind? My mind is looking for a reboot, time to reflect, evaluate the path I took, allow myself to lament the losses, make things right with others. In general, I want to use this time to ‘reboot’ as much as I can so that I won’t repeat the same mistakes. What will I do differently post COVID-19? Or am I thinking that I cannot wait for it to end so that I may go back to my old routines? It’s difficult to be intentional about making time to listen to my deepest needs and desires. As a wife, mother, academic, and leader, it’s also difficult to intentionally engage in meaningful conversations at home.

As a theologian, I am often reminded of the biblical call to “stillness” (Psalm 46:10) and of ‘chewing on sugarcane stalks’ during these uncertain times, which have limited me. As I confront the many interrelated battles ahead of me, I hope myself and others can find more time to enjoy some stillness in body, mind and soul.

Amharic:

 የ”እንረፍ” ጥሪ፣ በሰብለወንጌል ዳንኤል 

እንደ ሚስት፣ እናት፣ መምህርት፣ መሪ፣ ወዘተ ከሚገጥሙኝ ፈተናዎች መካከል ዕርፍ ማለት ያለመቻል አንዱ ነው፡፡ ሕይወቴ በጥድፊያ ከመሞላቱ የተነሳ አካሌ ቁጭ ብሎ አእምሮዬ ምድርን ሲዞር፣ በውስጤ፣ አንዳንዴ ደግሞ በእግሬም ሮጥ ሮጥ ስል እራሴን አገኘዋለሁ፡፡ በቤቴ፣ በሥራ ገበታዬ፣ ለመንፈሳዊ ጥሞና በቀጠርኩት ጊዜ ጭምር ውስጤ ብድግ እንዳለ ሆኖ ይሰማኝና ትግል እገጥማለሁ፡፡ የማያቋርጥ ጥድፍያ፣ አንዱን በፍጥነት ከውኖ ወደሌላው ለማለፍ ችኩል የማለት ነገር ያይልብኛል፡፡ ልጆቼ “ኧረ እማሚ፣ እንደው ታስመስያለሽ እንጂ አታዳምጪንም” በማለት ሲኮንኑኝ “ታዲያ ምን ላድርግ፣ ብዙ ሥራ ስላለብኝ ነው እንጂ ወድጄ አይደል” በማለት ራሴን ለማጽናናት እሞክራለሁ፡፡ ይህ የውስጥ ሩጫ በጣም አድካሚ ነው፡፡ ጋደም ስል በጅምር ላይ ያሉ ሥራዎቼ ድቅን ይሉብኝና አእምሮዬ ጨርሶ እንዳይተኛ ይፈታተኑታል፤ የሥራ መደራረብና በቂ ዕረፍት ማጣት ጫና ያሳደሩበት አእምሮዬ ደግሞ ንቁ አልሆን እያለ ይታገለኛል፡፡ 

ዕረፍት የለሹ ሩጫ በ”ኮከብ ሠራተኛ” ባህርይ ተመስሎ እየፈተናችሁ፣ እናንተም እንደ እኔ “ብዙ ድስት ጥዳችሁ” ሁሉንም ባንዴ ለማማሰል እየማሰናችሁ ይሆን? ምናልባትም ዝግ ብሎ በመኖር እጃችሁ ላይ ያሉትን መልካም ነገሮች የማጣጣም አቅማችሁ ተገድቦ ይሆን ይሆናል፡፡ ከማልረሳቸው የአገር ቤት ትዝታዎቼ መካከል ሸንኮራ መብላት ይገኝበታል፡፡ መቼም ሸንኮራ በጥርስ ወጋ ወጋ ተደርጎ አይተፋም፡፡ አፍ የሚሞላው ጣፋጭ ፈሳሽ የሚወጣው ሸንኮራው በደንብ ሲታኘክ እንደሆነው ሁሉ ከአንዱ ነገር ወደ አንዱ መሮጥ ከሌሎች ጋር ባለኝ አብሮነት ደስ የመሰኘትንና ዘና የማለትን ትርጉም ሊያጠፋብኝ እንደሚችል መገንዘብ፣ ቆም ብዬም ከሥራዬና ከሌሎች ጋር ካለኝ ኅብረት የሚገኘውን ርካታ ማጣጣም እንዳለብኝ ይሰማኛል፡፡ 

ለነገሩ ኮቪድ-19 የብዙ ሰዎችን ሩጫ ገታ ሳያደርግ አልቀረም፡፡ እንደልብ ከቦታ ቦታ የመንቀሳቀስ ነጻነታችን ተገድቦ በግድ “የሰንበት ዕረፍት” የተሰጠን ይመስላል፡፡ “ብቻ ሥራዬን ልጨርስ እንጂ ከአማኙ ማሕበረሰብ ጋር ሕብረት ለማድረግ በቂ ጊዜ እመድባለሁ” እያልኩ ጊዜ እስኪመቻችልኝ ስጠብቅ ጭራሽ በአካል ኅብረት የማይቻልበት ዘመን መጣ፡፡ ሰዎችን መጠየቅና እንግዶችን መቀበል በኛ ምርጫና ጊዜ ላይ መወሰኑ ተገድቧል፡፡ ተቃቅፎ ሞቅ ያለ ሰላምታ መለዋወጥ አሁን ላይ የለም፤ ምንኛ ከባድ ጊዜ ነው! 

 እኔ ግን የተወሰዱብኝን/ያጣኋቸውን ነገሮች አስቤ ለመቆዘም እና አካሄዴን ለመመርመር ይህንን ጊዜ ብጠቀምበት መልካም መስሎ ይታየኛል፡፡ ያለፈውን ሕይወቴንና የመጣሁበትን መንገድ ለመፈተሽ፣ ዞር ብዬ መንገዴ ለመመርመር ጊዜ ብወስድ ያለፈውን ስህተቴን ነገ ከመድገም እድናለሁና፡፡ የኮቪድ-19 ሥርጭት ሲገታና ነጻ እንቅስቃሴ ማድረግ ሲቻል ምን አዲስ ነገር ይታይብኝ ይሆን? ብሎ ራስን መጠየቅ ያሻል፤ ምን አይነት ለውጦች ላደርግ ወስኛለሁ? ወይስ ገደቡ ተነስቶ እንደ ዱሮዬ ለመኖር ቀን እየቆጠርኩኝ ነው? ራሴን ስመለከት እንደ ሚስት፣ እንደ እናት፣ እንደ መምህርትና መሪ የነፍስን ጩኸት ለማዳመጥና ከቤት እስከ አደባባይ ባሉ ግንኙነቶች ትርጉም ያለው ኅብረት እንዲዳብር መትጋት ቀላል እንዳልሆነ እገነዘባለሁ፡፡ ሆኖም፣ ነገር ከሰው ሁሉ እጅ የወጣ በሚመስልበት በዚህ ወቅት መዝ 45፡10 ላይ ያለውን የ “ዕረፉ” ጥሪ በማሰብ በሥጋና፣ በአእምሮና በነፍስ ማረፍ እንደሚበዛልን ተስፋ አደርጋለሁ፡፡ 

Seblewengel Daniel serves as the Academic Dean and faculty of Practical Theology at Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology. She is married and lives in Addis Ababa with her husband and their three children.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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