Those moments between lights out and sleep are filled with surprise. Why is it that often the best thoughts emerge in those moments? And why is it that often we determine to savour them and hope that we will remember them in the morning, only to awake to a sense of wonder and frustration – knowing that we held a great idea, but can’t quite recall what it was?
One night late in the past week I chose to read an introductory chapter of another book before turning out the light. Given its brevity I thought it helpful to gain the book’s flavour before finally ending the day. It was two hours’ later before I was finally able to let go and sleep. In the half hour following I lay in bed with ideas flowing back and forth, taking me deeper into thought and unravelling some ideas that I had been trying to untangle for some time. My initial thoughts (to leave it until morning) were ultimately put aside. I rose from my bed and spent the next hour committing them to paper. When I arose the next day, further thoughts followed. The sense of release was palpable.
I suspect that one of the sources of this rich creativity is the lack of clutter. When we prepare for sleep, most action points are set aside. Busy agendas are forgotten and our minds allowed to relax. It may be that we pare down the focus to fewer and fewer issues, releasing mind energy for singular tasks. Is it that our busy-ness destroys our creativity and receptivity to what the Spirit of God might be saying to us?
When Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, Martha was indignant – there was much to be done. The pressure was on, and Mary seemed not to be pulling her weight, so Martha petitioned Jesus to her cause. “Action is needed,” she complains, “and Mary isn’t doing anything!” Jesus’ response perhaps gives an insight into the creativity of our last wakeful moments: “you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
In a world where it is generally a badge of honour when we pronounce to others how busy we are, perhaps we are really declaring a shortcoming. Is our creativity deadened by our commitment to almost continual motion?
“Be still,” says the Psalmist. “Stand still and see the Lord’s deliverance,” says the prophet. Be still and come truly alive!
August 28, 2005