We spend a LOT of time on output. We say a lot, post a lot, create a lot, do a lot, lecture our kids a lot (just me?), email a lot, text a lot, help a lot… but what is our input like?
Try this: Breathe out. All the way out. Keep going. Don’t breathe in. Breathe out again. Not easy, right? We literally must receive breath before we can breathe out.
In my yoga practice, I attend some studios that talk a lot about the energy we pass between each other. It is intended as connecting encouragement in our community, and I’m not going to debate the universality or theology of those ideas here. But I have found myself, when I focus on my breath, to think “receive” when breathing in and “give” when breathing out. Whether it’s prayers, vibes, energy, good thoughts, or simply O2 and CO2, I have to take in before I can give out.
Our vehicles need gas and electric power to run. We need food to fuel our bodies. This intake before output idea isn’t new and it isn’t foreign. So why do we ignore it in our day to day ministries, whether in the Church, at a secular institution, or at home? I’m pretty sure there’s a good line to draw here to Mary and Martha, because at some level, many of us are inherently geared toward prioritizing input versus output. So, a regular focus on input may be easier for some of us than others.
We become better when we make time to receive. For being vulnerable enough to say, “I need a break,” or “I need help.” For taking in and recognizing new ideas and perspectives different from our own. For saying “no” or “wait” and doing something that fills us up first.
I’m purposefully avoiding the word sabbath because that implies rest and this input may not be restful, per se. It could be working out regularly on your own or with others, prioritizing a regular coffee date with your spouse or a friend, making time to go to the archery range, kayak at the lake, or walking the local trail with your favorite furry friend. This could very well be a nap or stillness or choosing to listen and not speak (or type), or picking up a book from an author you often disagree with or about something unfamiliar to you.
Being active or engaging in some challenging mental calisthenics can fortify us to do our work better. Quality and necessary input enables us to give with greater fervor, more generosity or with better consistency.
In the Church, we talk often about receiving grace and God’s gifts. We talk about the joy of God’s creation and reveling in God’s kingdom. That God’s love is free for us to receive. All of us. Isn’t it easier to love others when we feel loved by God and others? Are we walking that talk? Making the time and space to take in joy and love?
Our boys have birthdays eight days apart this month. So, while they’re dreaming up what they would like to receive, they must shop in order that they can give. They are thoughtful givers in part because they are primed to receive that very week. This is developmentally appropriate. If we don’t learn the joy in receiving, it can be hard to see the true value of what we give.
So whether your input style is more a slice of your weekly cake or the sprinkles on your daily cupcake (Did I mention we are in birthday mode around here?), I implore you to identify what fills up your heart and your tank, and find the time to do it.
Find your cake. Eat it too.