Pausing and Finishing Well at the Wisdom Hour
Have you ever met your older self?
I don’t mean time travel (though I’m still a prime candidate for a real-life Doctor Who if it’s ever a possibility). I simply mean, have you ever pictured yourself 20, 30, even 50 years from now?
Several times in my life, mostly when struggling with who I am and where I am headed in life, I have closed my eyes and pictured myself in my 70s or 80s.
Every time it is the same.
I always find myself in the same living room, which looks a lot like the first house I lived in as a small child. I sit on a comfy, well-worn old couch with a fireplace in the corner, and a rocking chair with an old cozy blanket hanging over the arm in front of me. The room is small, but well-lit from a window to my right. It is very warm and completely inviting.
When I sit in this room it feels as if there is no place else I need to be, nothing else needs to be done. I feel as if I could sit here and read a book, play a board game, or listen to some soft music for the rest of my life.
In this image, an old man who looks like he’s seen a thing or two enters from the hallway in the left corner.
He’s not in a hurry.
He takes his time getting to the rocking chair and settling himself in for a good conversation. Once he has wiggled himself into a comfortable position in his favorite chair, he closes his eyes and breathes deeply for a second. He slowly reopens his eyes, looks at me, and in a manner that suggests we have done this hundreds of times, over many years, he simply says,
I have had many conversations with this Old Kurtis over the years. I have pictured him exactly the same in my mind and have sought his advice since I was a kid.
He is kind, gentle, and tender, but he is also firm, strong, and confident. He has seen much, loved well, and gained more wisdom than I can imagine ever finding myself. He has done amazing, adventurous, world-changing things, but he doesn’t seem to care about all that. All he really seems to care about is breathing deeply, staying calm, and loving whoever happens to be in front of him the best he can.
This is the man I want to be.
And not just when I’m 80. I want to live like this man lives today,
At this point, you may be wondering, “What does this have to do with the Seven Sacred Pauses?”
As always, I’m so glad you asked.
We are now halfway through Lent. We are officially in the second half of our season of sacrifice. Our journey of learning to pause has begun drawing to a close. And this week we add the Midafternoon Pause,
Also known as The Wisdom Hour.
The Wisdom Hour focuses on several things, but I will only discuss one or two.
The Wisdom Hour comes upon us in the mid-afternoon, around 3:00pm. We have worked a long day, we have eaten lunch, we have even survived the post-lunch energy crash that seems like it would be THE best time ever for a government-mandated nap!
But there is still much work that lies ahead of us.
We still have a couple of hours left at our job, and after that, the home-life work begins. You probably have kids to pick up, baseball practices to attend (or even to coach), meals to cook, houses to clean, or if you’re in school, there’s always that beloved homework to finish.
The Wisdom Hour is the beginning to the end of our day. The sun has turned it’s attention to the western horizon and much of the possibilities we celebrated this morning have come and gone, or at least have begun to set in stone.
One way or another, this day is ending, and with that realization comes a deep spiritual longing to
It is often spoken of in our culture that many people don’t really start living until they find out they are dying. Whether it’s very old age, surviving a sudden heart attack, or receiving a tragic diagnosis of cancer,
We humans tend to forget what is truly important until we realize the end may be nearer than we thought.
It is in these moments that we gain a sudden and almost divine clarity about our lives. Things that consumed our minds every day now mean nothing to us. People that we loved mostly in sentiment suddenly become all we think and care about. We long to spend time with them. We long to revel in beautiful moments of conversation, or games, or serving beside the ones that matter most to us.
In the face of death, how quickly we forget petty arguments, long-held resentments, and the worries of work projects, professional goals, and silly schedules.
When we realize life is ending, everything that truly matters becomes so much more beautiful, and we approach it with much more attention and care.
This is the wisdom and beauty of The Wisdom Hour:
Living with the end constantly before you.
Death may not be knocking at your door, but this day is coming to a close. Have you lived it well? Have you put the important things first in your mind and your heart? Have you done what has been set before you with great love?
If not, there is still time. That is the beauty of looking ahead to the end before it is upon you. Yes, much of it has passed but there is still so much opportunity in front of us this day! We have time to put our work affairs in order so we can welcome them with joy tomorrow morning. There is still time to put love first in all that we do and each person with which we interact.
The Wisdom Hour also reminds us that forgiveness is a gift.
Who are you needing to extend forgiveness to in your heart? When you do, and when you live out honest, servant-minded forgiveness, you give the gift of life back to that person. Forgiveness is often the medicine others need in order to heal, and when we give it with great resolve and authentic love,
we find ourselves healing in the process.
The Wisdom Hour is an opportunity to enter into that kind of love and healing before the day is fully gone. It brings new meaning to the phrase, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” At The Wisdom Hour, the sun is already setting.
Do not wait until it is on the horizon,
address the unforgiveness in your heart now.
Do not wait until it is too late to approach this day with love.
Let God’s unlimited grace embrace the mistakes and imperfections of this day that you cannot change, and let it guide you the rest of the evening.
This is the time to visit your old self, the one that knows all you know but has a more peaceful and gracious outlook on life.
This is the Wisdom Hour.
MIDAFTERNOON PAUSE PRAYER GUIDE
(From Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr)
We stand before the dying day
Offering our bouquet of life
(or listen to one of your favorite songs that reminds you what is important)
Put everything in order
as day begins to fade.
All things are passing,
moment by moment,
breath by breath.
All things are passing,
moment, by moment,
birth to death.
Take off that cloak of fear,
the divine strength you seek is here,
and you know you are dying to live.
You know you are dying to live.
so put everything in order
as day begins to fade.
We seek to live a more contemplative life, so that we will not have to wait until we are dying to learn to live. (James Finley)
O Soft Light of the Waning Sun,
the evening of life is on its way.
At day’s end, guide us to look within.
Usher us into the wisdom hour.
Teach us the grace of listening.
Reveal to us the art of dying.
Show us the face of God.
O Soft Light of the Waning Sun,
we stand before the dying day
with our bouquet of life:
sweet abiding, deep listening,
This is our gift to those
with whom we share out lives.
We seek to live a more contemplative life, so that we will not have to wait until we are dying to learn to live.
Psalm Suggestions for the Wisdom Hour
Prayer of the Hour
O Ancient Love,
In the evening of our lives send calming angels to shelter us and take away our fears. Lead us to “the Old One,” who lovingly waits for us to embrace our deepest and truest selves. Teach us to die before we die so that our final death will be a great healing, drawing us into deeper life. Show us the face of surrender that we may know at the end of each day what to let go of and what to keep. O Soft Light of the Waning Sun, teach us the beautiful art of dying. Fill us with your own wisdom. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.