I’ve learned to identify the power-hungry among us. I don’t mean the ambitious political self-seekers or self-serving control freaks. I’m talking about those people who meander through coffee shops, restaurants, hotel lobbies, and airport waiting areas looking under tables and behind chairs and along walls. They carry thin briefcases, and have an anxious searching quality in their eyes. They look beyond people, through people, and around people in their desperate pursuit of electrical outlets for their computers. They are running out of time, and they’ve got to find more juice quickly or the major tasks of their lives will grind to a halt.
Many coffee shops and airports now have courtesy charging stations. Some places have abundant outlets that are easy to access. However, some keep their outlets hidden from view and put up signs discouraging their use and limiting the time someone can access power.
Recently I was searching for a place to recharge my computer at a large airport. I walked for miles, pulling my wheeled computer case behind me, before I found a huddled mass of other power-hungry people. Lines of hurried people stood with dying cell phones, weakening computers, sputtering planners, and dimming hopes of getting connected before their next flight. I waited with them.
Two people were before me, standing there, watching a phone recharge. After a few moments, one said to the other, “Do you think that’s enough?” The second said, “Sure, thanks for the help,” and then unplugged his phone and handed the charger to the first fellow. Evidently he had run out of power, didn’t have a cord to connect his phone to the power source, found someone with a phone like his own, and asked the stranger for help to get him back connected with the world.
We often use metaphors related to power to describe our spiritual, emotional, or physical status. How many times have we found ourselves saying, “I just need time to recharge my batteries. I feel like I’m running on empty. I have nothing left.” All of these speak of exhaustion and depletion.
It takes a continual spiritual maturing to develop the inner skill to know what we need, to know where to find it and how to access it, and to make time and space to do so. Recharging takes various forms. A quiet, prayerful morning walk to begin the day, a thoughtful reading of scripture, breathing exercises, time alone, a devotional passage, time with friends… the ways are many and varied to plug back in to the source. How do we create spaces between the experiences and demands of living and work that allow God’s spirit to break in?
Jesus actively engaged people in marketplaces, along roadways, around dinner tables, and in the temple courtyard. He lived a remarkably active and engaged life. The gospel of Mark uses the word immediately dozens of times to describe how Jesus moved from one experience to another.
Scripture also records Jesus taking time alone for prayer, retreating to far-away places, spending time in gardens and on hilltops away from the crowd. Jesus practiced patterns of engagement and withdrawal, of activity and receptivity, of pouring out and building up, of moving on while staying connected. If Jesus found it necessary to intentionally make time for prayer in order to stay connected to God, what makes us think we can run on forever without doing so ourselves?
When I used to train for marathons, I discovered how important hydration is for health and strength. Runners consume amazing amounts of water. They tank up before the race begins, and as they move along the 26.2 mile path, they grab cups of water from tables set up by race volunteers. If they fail to drink enough, they face dangerous and sometimes life-threatening consequences.
Marathon runners have a saying to encourage people to stay ahead of their thirst, and to anticipate their needs. It goes, “When you feel thirsty, it’s already too late!” By the time the body sends signals of distress, you are already depleted. If you already feel thirsty and you grab a drink while running, by the time the water does any good, you may be in danger.
Back to the coffee shops and airports: If you see the red light flashing on your cell phone or hear the warning beeper on your computer, you may not have time to locate a power source, wait in line, and recharge before your next flight leaves. Anticipate. Plan ahead.
Sometimes we live with the fantasy that something is finally going to happen and all things in our life are going to fall into place, and we will suddenly have all the extra time we need for prayer, reading, exercise, and spiritual nourishment with friends. The wisdom of the ages suggests that making time for God requires soul work, deep intentionality, and sustained commitment. It is not easy. But it is the only way to live an active life without becoming spiritually depleted.
The bridesmaids who brought enough oil for their lamps represent the wisdom of spiritual preparation (Matthew 25:1-13). As you continue your travels, take your charger with you, and plan for some time to renew yourself along the path.
Yours in Christ,