In our family, we only name a baby after we meet it. That’s when we know who they are. We look at them and they tell us. I’ve been writing a book on and off but the hardest part is the first chapter. That first chapter is so weighty. It makes me feel like I have to know what the whole book is about before I write it which is like knowing a baby’s name before it’s born.
So here’s my solution. I’m not writing a first chapter. I’m just writing. The book will be born and then we’ll see who she is.
Here’s today’s excerpt.
There are short journeys and there are long journeys.
Most of us move through life dividing it into real time and in between time. Real time is in the doctor’s office, in between time is in the waiting room. Real time is when I’m settled in a job, in between time is when I’m unemployed. Real time is when I’m married and settled, in between time is when I’m single and searching.
The Lubavitcher Rebe says, there is no such thing as real or not real time. There are only long journeys and short journeys. When the Jews traveled through the desert, they didn’t set up camp randomly, they followed the Cloud of Glory. When it moved, they moved and when it stopped, they stopped. All together they camped in forty places, some for a day and some for a year. In each pace they camped they were commanded to set up the Mishan, the Tabernacle. Setting up the Mishkan was no small feat. It required 5, 000 Levites to build it!
And yet, even if it was just for 24 hours, up it went. This teaches us that every place we camp, whether it be for a short time or a long time is important. More than that ; each place we camp is a place where the Divine Presence wants to rest, wants to be with us. In every part of the world, in every part of life there are hols sparks. The Torah teaches that when G-d created the world, He shattered the sparks around the Universe and our job is to collect them, to elevate them. In this sense, there is nothing that is not sacred.
I remember reading a book called Anti- Cancer “Food impacts your body three times a day, every day. Make it work for you.”
As food impacts on our body, our thoughts impact our souls.And we don’t only think three times a day. All day long we are ingesting paradigms.
We can feed our souls toxic, artificial flavors such as “I can’t wait until this is over!” “Why me” ”I can’t handle this!” What a waste of time!”
Or we can feed it nurturing nourishing thoughts, like “What can I get out of this situation?” “I’m so grateful to be alive for this experience.” ”Everything is for a reason.” ”I’m in pain but from this place I can grow.”
There are only long journeys and short journeys and so often it’s the short ones, those so called in between times where we become. They are opportunities for growth.
Imagine I’m sitting in the Doctors office nervously waiting for an important appointment and I’m waiting for time to pass. I probably got dressed early in the morning, got the kids out, tried to keep my eye on the clock and being horrible with time was anxious that I would inevitably be late. I rushed through my prayers or didn’t say them at all. I probably circled around to find parking, and sighed as I realized I didn’t charge my phone and grabbed a coffee as I left and slowed down my steps before walking into the waiting room so that I looked like a normal person.
And then I sat down. And I waited. And I waited and I waited. And all my hurrying was for nothing. Or was it? What if that time of waiting was custom designed for me. What if it was exactly what I needed? Maybe in that time I said a quiet prayer or read some Psalms. What if without if I would not have said the prayers that would lead to a good diagnoses for me?
There are sparks there in that waiting room. And they might be in your prayers or they might be in a conversation with the receptionist. The last receptionist I spoke with had just lost her aunt. She was going to the funeral after work that day. Her aunt raised her and she was devastated. We made that connection and picked up that holy spark.
There are sparks even when there are no fireworks. No flashy – “I met this woman and we had the most amazing talk – it was so perfect that I was there.” Sometimes the spark is the spark of patience as I humble myself to be in a situation that is tiresome and uncomfortable. Sometimes the spark is gratitude as I watch a parade of people, sicker than myself go in before me. And sometimes the spark is unknown and I have to create it. “G-d, why do you want me here? Can you help me understand? And in the reaching out, in the space of seeking the spark I’ve already ignited it.
In our long journeys we feel sure of ourselves, we know what we are accomplishing, but in our short journeys we’re unsure, we’re off balance. It feels like the world is moving while we are stuck at a standstill. And that alone can cause us panic. The toxic thoughts come in; when will the real journey start?
Sometimes a short journey can actually be a long one. When you’re sick or when a loved one is sick, it feels like life is on hold; when will it get normal? Or how about when a child is struggling or when there’s mental illness in the family or when the loneliness of being single feels like its choking you. How much longer can you hold out?
The constant state of crisis feels like it’s got to be short term. After all, isn’t life supposed to have a morning, afternoon and evening? Aren’t we supposed to be able to go to work and come home and have dinner and be normal. And even if I’m a champion in this Olympic sized test, isn’t it supposed to be over so that I can be normal again?
And I’ve been there, I get it. It’s that feeling of “Get me off the train!” When will the in between time be over so that I can begin real time?
The words of Lubavitcher Rebbe whisper the answer in our ear. ”It’s ALL real. There are only short journeys and long journeys.”
You, my dear are on an expedition; you are a spark gatherer, a treasure hunter, a life giver, a people grower. Your pain and your pleasure, your waiting and your doing, it’s all movement, it’s all growing you. The Divine Presence is with you wherever you are.