Inertia

My desk looks much the same. My books are still piled in place ready to be opened
and read. The little messes that make up my desktop have not magically cleared themselves in my absence. My little jade tree is still alive and ready for a drink. In other words, nothing much has changed.

It’s the first day back from a much-needed and overdue vacation. It was good to get
away for a while. We had a remote cabin in the Appalachian Mountains by a small lake. We hiked on trails overlooking the gorge below us. We hung in hammocks swaying under the sky above us. We canoed on the lake with the water beneath us. We ate good food and fueled the fire of life within us. We played music and learned tunes that have been sung for generations still ringing in our ears and hearts. It was a beautiful time, indeed.

But vacations end and we return to our ‘life’s work.’ We have to bring ourselves back to the ‘normal.’ That’s not terribly difficult in regular circumstances. Even a couple of weeks away is not enough to forget the tasks that need attention, the questions that need answers, and the duties that make up our job descriptions. Even when we’re gone we’re never all the way detached from our work. At least, I am not.

I rarely take two weeks vacation at a time. So I have to confess that it take a bit more
energy to get back in the swing of things this time. Two weeks away was enough to get more fully rested; two weeks was enough to change up my sleep schedule; two weeks was enough to learn that I have not been getting enough sleep; two weeks was enough time to really exhale and breathe deeply a few times. Two weeks was enough time to feel as if I actually had a definite break in the routine.

But today it is something of a struggle to get up and get moving. I had set my alarm for 5:30am, but found myself hitting the snooze button. I had visions of getting up early and getting in a brisk walk, but the coffee pot was full and sitting and sipping a cuppa seemed more comforting. I had ideas about all kinds of things that we could be initiating at the church, but I’m here by myself since my able administrative assistant is also on vacation at the moment. I had things that need to be planned and executed, but I find that lots of folks are away from their posts at the moment.

I’m experiencing a serious case of inertia. Newton’s First Law of physics: “Every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.” There it is! That’s what I am feeling right now. I had attained a state of rest that had been lacking in life. I had come to a lower energy level so that I could breathe and recover. I had changed my location and activity level in ways that were not driven by a schedule. I had found rest.

So it takes a certain bit of force impressed upon me to get moving again. On the personal level, I have to start moving again in the direction of getting things done. I have to push myself a bit to overcome the inertia of rest that I had found. I have to get up and get on it.

This is not too difficult. This is part of what makes up life. We have to do it every day.
We have to get out of the bed, get ourselves showered, shaved, and dressed. We have to get our planners and computers and tools ready for work. We have to rally enough energy to engage the tasks of the day. Nothing new in all of that. Even if we’re back from a break, this is simply a common part of life.

But what I’m feeling is something more right now. It’s not just my personal inertia; it’s not just coming back from vacation; it’s not just picking up a new work week. It seems to be heavier than that. It seems to be harder to get the motion going again. Momentum has slowed to a halt, if feels.

It seems we are dealing with a strange form of corporate inertia in the midst of the
current crisis. Safer at home orders and business closings and churches suspending services have moved us all in a different direction. We have taken to our homes and reduced our activities. We have spent more time in front of screens. We have made much more connection with our couches than we had just a few months ago. Zoom meetings have meant that ‘getting dressed for work’ only covered our top halves. Comfort has become the new standard. For so many, we have not had to get up and get on it. The populace has experienced a new reduced energy state in the pandemic.

Living and working and being in a church means that this inertia has affected our
congregational life in unexpected ways. It is not advisable to gather as it once was. Meetings are less frequent as if seems we do not have tasks before us. Focus has been lost because our vision of who we are and what we would be doing has been radically altered. Projects that seemed plausible are now put on hold. We have been met with cancellation after cancellation. We are leery of trying to project something new because we have had a string of disappointments and false starts. Energy and enthusiasm have dissipated to some degree. Inertia has taken hold. How are we going to get going again? What will compel us to change or be impressed upon us?

So today I started not with a flurry of activity, not with a full slate of to-dos, not with a calendar of appointments, but with stillness and prayer. The way forward for me will have to be impressed upon me by the one who is guiding my life. Any real positive change will come from that quarter and not from my own foolish enthusiasms. I may be fighting my inertia, but I’m not fighting it alone. I’m trusting God to push me forward—off of my state of rest and into the direction of motion that will be best for me and others.

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