Our favorite spot in the new house is quickly becoming the sunroom. This enclosed porch with sliding doors all around, gives us a postcard perfect glimpse of our backyard. It is more perfect when birds, squirrels, rabbits, and other friendly critters occupy the space.
It is a peace-filled space.
The other day while eating lunch on the sunroom, Toddler J and I watched as a squirrel hopped through the yard. As the squirrel started climbing the tree, Toddler J’s eyes lit up and a broad smile spread across her little face. She pointed up as the squirrel climbed the tree. When the squirrel was long out of sight, she was still pointing with excitement and mumbling what I believe was her attempt at saying,”squirrel.”
Then it hit me: this is what I do now. I watch squirrels.
For those of you who are not aware, my family recently moved to the east coast of Virginia after four years in Lynchburg. My wife, Megan, is now the pastor at Monumental United Methodist in downtown Portsmouth. I currently am a stay-at-home-dad. Toddler J and I read books, watch Daniel Tiger in the mornings, color, play with play dough, build towers with blocks, play with the Little People farm, and of course, take naps.
And we watch squirrels.
In this season of life I have chosen to be at home with my daughter during a major transition for our family. But the squirrels are teaching me that this season of transition is a season of sabbath. A time to rest, renew, and discern God’s will.
The squirrels are not terribly concerned with things. They do not mind the pine cones. The pine needles seem to be just part of the decor. Like the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap, yet they are fed.
Jesus asked, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27)
There’s a lot that has been written and preached about what Jesus may have meant in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount. One of the ways we can understand what Jesus is saying is that he is calling us to be dependent on God, just like the birds and the lilies. Not dependent in a way that we sit back in our lawn chair, with our barefeet in a kiddie pool, waiting for God to “show up” and deliver the groceries.
Instead of looking at life through the lens of worry, we look through the lens of hope. There is plenty for us to worry about. Tension in the church over human sexuality. Violence in the streets across America. Racism that continues to rear its ugly head. Forms of bullying that are disguised as Christian truth.
There is a lot to worry about.
So I’m watching squirrels.
I’m watching squirrels in my backyard as they calmly collect all the various things they collect. Do they worry about food and shelter? I am sure they do. The squirrels are not paralyzed by worry. They seem to move with joy and hope-filled expectation.
The squirrels remind me to turn my attention away from the frantic pace of life filled with worry, and seek a calmer vision of God’s will. Jesus tells the crowd, “Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33). I believe that when we do this, there will be less tension in the church; less violence in the streets; less racism and bullying.
Sabbath is key to seeking God’s kingdom. It is necessary to seek a calmer vision of God’s will in the midst of a frantic world.