by Lesley-Ann Tommey
The chapel message this semester at work (AKA the school where I work) is focused on the busyness of students’ lives. Every week they hear how necessary it is to shake off that busyness. Their achievements don’t make up their identities, and working on holistic, slow-paced habits helps them move toward a greater sense of self, appreciation and God. They’re wondering, how are we supposed to experience God when we’re too busy to notice what’s happening around us?
Simultaneously, as they are hearing and trying to live into this slower reality, I am running around school with my camera, checking my watch every 30 minutes to make sure I’m not late for the next appointment and skipping lunch breaks to meet deadlines. I had to be at work early two days this past week, and by Friday, I was completely done. I was moving through the motions of work, not totally present (you know, the way you do when you have to make it through a day but all you really want to do is sleep), and I was going to stop for breakfast after the first two events that morning. I was going to stop for breakfast, and I was going to write for a minute because I knew I needed the space to breathe.
So I headed back downtown, tried to get into a few different places, but they were all packed. I finally made it to a place with a somewhat empty parking lot. I only noticed the “Cash Only” sign once I was done ordering. I was on the side of the road, just off the phone with Blake, before I let myself cry. I was done for the day, and I hadn’t even sat down at my computer yet.
Blake brings me a bagel and coffee, and I calm down at my desk. By the time I leave the building that afternoon, I’ve taken enough deep breaths to remain productive, and I’m reminding myself every 30 minutes that it’s a three-day weekend. I can’t make it all the way to my car, though, because there’s a bird. He’s singing his lungs out right next to my car. Everything is quiet, and no one is around. He sings so loudly and beautifully, relentlessly giving his spirit to the sky. I don’t want to move. I want to hang out in his joy forever, so I can’t help but start singing myself.
“I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free.”
I drive down the road to my next meeting, and I can’t remember the way the rest of the song goes. So I Google it, and Whitney Houston sings through my car:
“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”
I catch my breath. The last time I heard that song was at my granddad’s funeral just a few months ago. It was the only piece of the service he had requested. So I’m crying in my car for the second time that day.
But this time, it’s because I stopped long enough to breathe in the reminder that God is there with me, reaching toward me in the muck, asking me to go a little slower and offering me some light.
Lesley-Ann Tommey is a minister at Eunoia Christian Community as well as a full-time marketing associate at The Covenant School in Charlottesville, Va.