Nov 02 2011
Here's to Nothing

Nothing is counter-cultural.

We figured this out not long after moving to trendy Palm Beach County, Florida, where we rented a little condo in a development that forms a ring around a pond.  Thing was, everyone could pretty much see everyone else, all the time.  Everyone's sliding-glass back doors face everyone else's.  We started getting comments from neighbors.

One evening, standing by the pond, a tipsy Finnish guy (he and his wife were drinking while moving out, tired of the inhospitable hood) told me -- I swear I'm not making this up:  "When I look at your family, I think about God."

I'd never talked to him before.

"I watch you outside, and your wife, and your boy, and when you walk with your girl, and I see how your wife makes people feel -- very welcome," he said.  "It makes me think about God.  I know that's strange."

Once, a single man, a Jewish guy named Steve, stopped by with his dog as Carolyn and I sat on our little back patio.  Carolyn had talked with him some.  Me, not so much.  I have a long history of being shy...and selfish.  I'm getting better.

"You guys ought to be in a museum!"

Uh...what?

"Seriously.  You got the mom, the dad, the kids, hanging out.  When it gets dark, I can see you inside, eating dinner around the table and stuff.  You ought to be in a museum somewhere!  I love it!"

In our society's terms, what we do is a lot of "nothing".  For one, we don't send our kids to school.  (Forgive us, culture, for we have sinned.)  Carolyn's a brilliant teacher, and home-schooling fits nicely into the rhythm of our home.  I've heard the objections.  One of the more awkward, I think, is this:  "What about being 'salt and light'?  What about sending your kids into the dark places to redeem them?  What about the schools?"

Yes.  What about them?  And -- while we're at it -- what about our neighborhoods?  What about not just getting mail there, but actually living where you live?  Kids leave schools and change classes.  People change churches and never see each other again.  But where you live?  Now, there's a bit more there there.

A famous study of Chicago neighborhoods in the 50s and 60s concluded there is one thing, more than any other, that made for the "glue" of a neighborhood:  Women.  At home.  (Again, forgive me, etc.)

Turns out, when you have time to do what, culturally-speaking, is "nothing" (like walking the baby around, chatting with neighbors, letting the kids play together) neighbors get to know each other.  It doesn't happen when everyone's at breakneck speed and, when home, exhausted.

Nothing is quite something -- a very attractive something.  People long for it;  even admire it.  (One lawyer friend told me over coffee, "I hear what you're saying, about not working like crazy to buy stuff, and I want to live like that.  But -- forgive me -- you're the only one I know who actually does that.")

In this culture, "nothing" sticks out like crazy, like a...light...on a hill, or...something.  It wasn't just those two guys.  Our neighborhood knew we were odd.  The dad's home a lot, walking around with his daughter, catching lizards?  The mom is home a lot, too, talking outdoors with us about the ducks?  They waste time together.  They waste time with us.  Something's odd, here...

So:  Nothing made a man think about God.  In the U.S., right now, maybe that's not hard to explain.  We did nothing, and nothing is shockingly out of place.  Nothing means not everything, not running around infernally, not getting our kids this-lesson-and-that, not trying to sustain a lifestyle we "want" -- but not deep down.

Maybe Jesus's offer of "rest" is not an "after your dead, rest in peace"-type rest.  Maybe it's a lifestyle, now, that invites other people out of the maelstrom.

Here's to nothing.  I don't want to sound cocky about it, but I can do nothing pretty well.

Comments (8) -

11/5/2011 4:55:11 PM
Julie Charity United States
Julie Charity
Thanks. I feel more relaxed, more at peace, just reading this post.
11/6/2011 2:02:40 PM
Bethany G. H. United States
Bethany G. H.
Try your best to live quietly, to mind your own business, and to work hard, just as we taught you to do. Then you will be respected by people who are not followers of the Lord, and you won't have to depend on anyone. 1 Thess. 4:11,12

I think there's a lot to be said for this accidental kind of evangelism. It's what really brought me to Christ; watching Christian families loving each other. Once, before I knew Him, I was at a friend's house - her whole family was Christian - and they got into a fight. Guess what they fought about? She wanted her parents to pray about the direction of her life, and they wanted her to delve more into the Word for herself. And if the subject material wasn't crazy enough, the way they fought was so respectful. They apologized to me for fighting, but I was just laughing. I got to thinking, "If this is the way they fight...I'd like to see how they love."
11/7/2011 2:07:20 PM
Elyssa United States
Elyssa
That's so cool my family home school's. sometimes I just want to go to school (6 kids in the family) but I find it's worth it! I'm glad that other people think it's great 2!
11/14/2011 8:02:53 PM
Demetria United States
Demetria
Hope you don't mind me getting hung up on the homeschooling aspect.  I realize there's more to what you wrote!  Anyway, we homeschool, too, and are in our 2nd year.  I was a public school teacher who left my kid daily to pour all of me into others.  I loved teaching, but my family was disinegrating.  Through some hefty medical issues, God brought me home.  Sure, I have the choice, but those times down when I was unable to do anything but lie in a hospital bed or at home and think made me question whether I would ever accomplish the things that truly mattered if I went back to teaching.  Nope.  It took me a while to accept my new "job" as something meaningful, but I've found it a God-honoring place to be...in a constant position of humility and dependence on God.  People tell me "I could never homeschool.  I don't have the patience."  Neither do I!  But, oh how God does something so wonderful with that.  Through "nothing" I have to learn to apologize to my kids if I want to show them how a loving relationship really works.  I have time to take notice and care of the needs of others outside my home.  The needs are great.  I would love to see more moms or dads stay home and "do nothing" so that wonderful things would happen not just at the family level, but the culture at large.  Sorry to write an essay, but it's exciting to hear another embrace nothing.  Just beautiful!
11/23/2011 6:47:30 PM
Ki United States
Ki
@Julie Charity
Amen sista. I totally feel more at peace in my life. Amazing how God uses the simple things of what seems like nothing, such as this post, to change the light of someone, the way that they view something. Thank you so much Brant.
12/21/2011 11:10:52 PM
Jessica United States
Jessica
I love doing "nothing" too. And my family homeschools too. It's pretty awesome in my opinion. But God is awesomer.
7/2/2012 11:27:11 PM
Maddy United States
Maddy
I agree with that rest. My pastor has been talking about that kind of stuff for a long time now, and I'm really starting to get it. It is an amazing idea that I can let go of the things that I thought were important and focus on God, and that will be rest.
7/20/2012 11:48:45 AM
Dusty Crabtree United States
Dusty Crabtree
I just stumbled on this post after reading the Dark Night review and I love it as well.  Definitely going to have to follow your blog now Brant.  Very inspirational yet convicting at the same time.  Keep it up!  Well, all the "nothing" that is.  Smile
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