February 25, 2008
The quiet darkness is almost perfect. Dim light helps me guide my pen across the yellow page while the faint tick-tock of a clock two rooms away marks the passing moments of silence. At 4:30 a.m., the city still sleeps, and I can hide in the darkness.
I breathe in the silence. Time fills the space between my words as I write. Ink lays down the mental wanderings of the early morning uninterrupted by the more familiar clicks of the keyboard.
I savor the dark morning, wanting to hold it still, a quiet reminder of God’s creation uninterrupted by my schedule in a daytimer, unplugged from modern invention.
This pause in life is a remnant of Christmas past, my last gift from under the tree. Come away with me, the Babe in the manger invited. And I nodded. Yes.
Moving closer to the manger, tucking the edge of the Babe’s blanket into the straw, the room is warmed by the breath of humans and animals sharing the morning’s miracle. The only lights outside burn in the sky, flickers above the clouds, giving faint outline to the hint of a town, of people, of landscape…a gift of peace.
There is only one way for me to enter this peace. I must unplug.
So many layers of Christmas celebration have been added to God’s gift. Shopping. Christmas cards, with the annual family letter enclosed, a tree wrapped in strings of lights, gingerbread houses, Mary and Joseph on the front yard, plugged into a timer to go on & off with the up and down of the sun.
Each holiday tradition is a modern celebration of the Babe in the manger. But this year, I needed more of less.
Finally, at the base of the Christmas tree, wrapping up the season, putting decorations back into their box, I began to unplug. I set boundaries on the office in the next room. Whatever I am able to accomplish in eight hours each day will be enough. Unfinished business will have to sit unfinished…until tomorrow.
The computer, the television…both unplugged. Daily duties and distractions are quieted. But unplugging is revealed as a moment-by-moment process that unfolds with each new task of the day. Like pulling petals from a daisy…do I, don’t I…each action begins with a choice that is now important.
Do I? Yes, I must complete my trip to D.C., an airline ticket purchased last month ties me to duty. But walking through the airport, do I or don’t I forgo the moving sidewalk? Choosing my path on solid ground, a string of people slides by on each side of me. I arrive at the gate two minutes behind them, the price of unplugging, a minor two minute delay that on its own is not worthy of notice. But unplugging is like that.
Each modern moment challenges me for its space in my life. The political season, the Super Bowl, the church Bible study, a trip to visit children, taxes to pay, birthdays to celebrate…unplugging is microscopic surgery where every blood vessel must be carefully chosen and, if cut, cauterized.
Two months after boxing up the front lawn’s nativity, I mark my successes in these quiet morning hours, scratching my pen across the page while the city sleeps. This is the first writing I have done since the Babe invited me into the manger. And it is more than symbolic that I have chosen a yellow tablet over the laptop in my office, plugged in.
Unplugged, creating space in life, making each action defend its significance, there are no perfect choices. Do I…don’t I…type my scribbles, two months late, into the first 2008 column for my website? If I don’t, another worthy writer will fill the void. If I do, I will use precious minutes – either gift or sacrifice or indulgence – a writer’s continual struggle to identify the importance of what we do in the manger next to the Babe who needs us still, long after the Christmas boxes are back in the garage.
It began two months ago, a decision to unplug from distractions and enter the miracle. Do I…don’t I…on…or off…a question, a choice, unsettled and unending.
The early morning quiet still blankets me, the pen starts and stops, a choice with each word…do I…don’t I?