“to consider reflectively; a state of deep reflection or meditation.” (Webster’s II, 1984)
I require time to muse. One thing I’ve been musing about lately is how often we a muse ourselves. The etymology of the word amuse gives me pause. From the Old French, amuser, to stupefy; from Latin, a, meaning “to” + muser, “to stare stupidly.” The first definition of the word in my dictionary is what we typically think about amusement. “To occupy in an agreeable or pleasing way.” But look at the meaning considered to be archaic. “To divert the attention of in order to deceive.”
My point here is not to say that every form of amusement is a deliberate attempt by someone to deceive us. But muse on this a bit. How much of our entertainment is purposely designed to keep us from musing?
A while back, a rerun of one of my favorite old (and I mean, as old as I am) television comedies was playing while I was in another room. Because I could hear it, but couldn’t see it, I was struck by how stridently almost every line was delivered. Every other line was a straight line tuned to the responsive laugh track. I found myself disregarding what they were saying to consider reflectively why everyone was yelling. I won’t go into my conclusions because this isn’t about the evils of television.
But since I mention it . . . if the television is on in our house, it’s most often sports or a political talk show. I’ve learned over the years that I can at least half-muse while football is on. During baseball games, I can achieve more proficiency. But the commercials! Yelling. Commentators holler, talk show hosts argue with and interrupt their “guests.” This is loud and distracting, but even more so, the commercials. “Hey, look over here! No, not there, HERE! If you don’t want to buy something, at least let us assault your senses, perhaps even offend you.” It feels like most of this sort of amusement is designed to make sure spectators feel but don’t think. How could anyone think with that going on? And why would you want to? You deserve some distraction, don’t you?
I reflect on the way I structure my day in order to fulfill my duties. I am a teacher, but I am not a morning person. Therefore, I get up three hours before school starts in order to get my mind right before the kids show up. The first two hours of the morning are devoted to “getting ready” in fairly rigidly scheduled 15-minute chunks. Or else! Or else shower time runs into breakfast time which then overlaps devotions and prayer time, which might put me behind warming up the car and scraping the windshield, which would then set me back a few minutes, thereby putting me into heavier traffic as the top of the hour nears. From the time I get to school, an hour before kids start showing up, I have to be “on.” I am “on” for the next 7 or 8 hours. Errands after school, go home, exercise, fix dinner, do dishes and other chores. Because I’m old, I know that by 9 p.m. I’ll be ready for bed, so I rush through these things and try to invent shortcuts so I can hurry up and relax. This doesn’t include phone calls, answering emails, or any other time for maintaining relationships. I guess people will just have to wait until I have a minute.
If that doesn’t sound exactly like your days (unlikely), I’ll bet it has a familiar ring.
While working through Beth Moore’s Jesus, 90 Days with the One and Only, I came across these comments in the discussion of the “Parable of the Sower.” “The hearers of the Word who are distracted by the constant call of the world will never fulfill God’s awesome plan for their lives. According to I Corinthians 2:9, distracted individuals miss life’s greatest treasure. No mind has even conceived ‘what God has prepared for those who love Him.’” While we’re a musing ourselves, we’ll never know what true pleasures or wisdom have passed us by.
Ephesians 5:15-16 has always troubled me. “See, then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (KJV) Redeeming the time? Buying it back? From whom? With what? The English Standard Version translates that phrase, “making the best use of the time.” My Zodhiates Word Study Dictionary explains it this way: “The word generally means to buy up, to buy all that is anywhere to be bought, and not to allow the suitable moment to pass by unheeded but to make it one’s own.”
Well, that hurts! “Not to allow the suitable moment to pass by unheeded.” How many of those have I lost because I’ve developed the habit of staring stupidly or occupying myself in a pleasing way? Or maybe just being busy.
How, like Mary, can I choose the necessary “good portion,” sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to his teaching rather than, like Martha, being distracted by “much serving?” How can I spend more time being still and knowing He is God?
Since God’s Word instructs me to be still and know that He is, achieving stillness isn’t meant to be optional for me, though it is something that I am apparently free to try to live without. The rest of that verse, Psalm 46:10, says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” God is going to get His due. Things will undoubtedly go better for me if I give it voluntarily instead of going my own way until he has to demand it of me.
What can I do about this? I have had to deliberately restructure parts of my day. Because I am tired when I get home and don’t feel like doing another full time job during the evenings, I had gradually gotten into the habit of saving all but the most urgent housework until Saturday. Which is fine, unless something else happens on Saturday that keeps me from getting it all done. Or if someone wants to spend some time with me, or someone plans a fun activity, or I have company. Then I have to carry the work over into Sunday. Which leaves me with no day of rest. I am not the only person I know who has tried doing without a Sabbath because there’s just not time to do it all. I believe it will eventually break you. For some reason, finally realizing what I was doing to myself was more difficult than doing something about it once I knew I needed to.
How about planning some time to muse on your daily schedule, the necessary activities and preferred entertainment? Which activities are indispensable? Which only seem to be? Are there activities that are entertaining, but have no lasting value? Would mental or physical exercise actually be more relaxing than simply allowing yourself to be amused?
I find it interesting that God has to tell us to rest. I suppose it is part of my willful nature that keeps me from daily acknowledging that the command to rest was on the same tablets as His other nine Commandments. As my Creator, He necessarily knows what is best for me. I will reflectively consider all He has asked of me and not just the parts that seem good to my limited knowledge.
If you would like some encouragement in setting aside your own Sabbath, check out Sara’s article here.