but wisdom, in a way that changes lives.
He told us something on the first day of class that has impacted my life ever since. As he went through the syllabus and talked about what the expectations of the class were, Dr. Heller said, “In order to pass this class, you will have to study every day for an hour or two. If you are not willing to put in that kind of time consistently every single day, you cannot pass.”
Of course I tested what he said. Soon after, there came a week when I had been too busy writing papers and reading for other classes. I had put off my Hebrew studies for several days, thinking I would “catch up” just before the weekly test. So I sat down one day and began to work.
For a while - about two hours - all went well. And then suddenly, the exercises made no sense.
The Hebrew letters turned to meaningless squiggles. I found myself going over the same information again and again without being able to take it in. I wasn’t tired or hungry or distracted, but no matter how I tried, my mind simply wouldn’t absorb any more. My brain had reached its
limit. Learning Hebrew required its “due season” without hurry. Needless to say, the next day’s test didn’t go very well.
I soon began to notice that the same principle held true in other activities--prayer, for example, and knitting, and creative thinking, and even certain interpersonal relationships. They need to follow a cyclical pattern of activity and rest - what Paulo Frere calls “praxis and reflection” in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Times of stillness must be built in between times of activity, if these kinds of things are going to prosper. I now know how to do certain things in measured, consistent effort, ringed around by periods of rest and stillness, of letting the fruits of my efforts “sink in.”
This is one of the reasons I look forward to the Lenten season that will soon be upon us. It’s a time
when stillness can enter in, when we can reflect and be quiet before God, letting go of so many frenetic activities, allowing the meaning in things to grow in us. After the last few weeks of busyness, I am ready for some stillness in my life. I look forward to the peace of allowing my inner self to grow in ways that are unseen, but life changing. May you, too, have peace and stillness in good measure.