#AdventBookClub day 7: Advent waiting

Evelyn Underhill writes, as all of us do, as a person of her particular time and social position. Her call to “withdraw from the restless surface of life in order to give our whole attention to the deeps of life” may read as the privileged invitation of one who doesn’t have to put dinner on the table each night, or work our where the money is coming from for the rent and the gas bill. For most of us, the matters of the ‘restless surface of life’ demand our attention, and often pressingly so. Withdrawal is not an option. What wisdom is there then, for us, in Underhill’s writing?

I would suggest that her words about busy-ness still have some value. Notice that it is not being busy that Underhill sees as an impediment to the spiritual life, but rather our attitude to busy-ness. To “believe that the really good part is to keep busy” is what, according to Underhill, hinders our understanding both of our own human nature and of God. And I think she has a point. Our idolising of ‘busy’ can be one more way of centring ourselves. Look how busy I am. Perhaps we imagine – or act as though we imagine – that our being busy brings glory to God, or that it is in some way indispensable to the work of God’s kingdom. Not so.

God creates us for rest as well as for work. If our idolisation of our own busy-ness destroys our capacity for sabbath, then whatever we may accomplish by being so busy cannot be worth that loss of attentiveness to the rhythm in which God creates and, through it, to God. It is so easy to be tempted to think that if we could just do more, or do it better, or keep doing it, then somehow something would be achieved to God’s glory. But to think like that is to rely on our own strength and not on God’s.

We may have many tasks to do – especially at this time of year. Some of them may be urgent, or important, or both. We may not be able to ‘withdraw’ as Underhill suggests. But we can examine our attitude towards our own busy-ness, and what they reflect about who we believe God to be.

This year for #AdventBookClub we are reading ‘Music of Eternity: meditations for Advent with Evelyn Underhill’ by Robyn Wrigley-Carr. Join the conversation in the Facebook group, or by following the hashtag on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s