When I was a kid, we weren’t put in “timeout” when we messed up. Nope. We were put in harm’s way – in the form of a spanking, that is. Now I may lose a few of you here, but I just don’t think a mischievous 7-year old’s going to learn much from being removed from the baseball game in order to reflect on the feelings of his victim.
“Billy, how do you think Sean feels after you hit him with that rock?!” Mom demanded.
“Well, judging from his tears, I’d say pretty bad,” Billy proudly replied.
When you messed up bad enough, you were spanked. Period. No discussions about feelings, or fairness…just a belt across the backside. Whap! Bang! Boom! Point made. Lesson learned. Not to ignore the feelings of the victim, but I think you’re more likely to see a change in behavior from Billy as he reflects on the feelings of his own buttocks rather than those of his victim. But somewhere along the child-rearing way, it was decided that a “time out” was equally if not more effective. While this decision likely came from the same people who gave the losing team the same medal as the winners, I do believe there’s room for the “timeout” concept.
Way up in the mountains of northeast Georgia, sits a little community called Sautee-Nacoochee. It’s home to trophy-winning trout, hundred-foot waterfalls, and maybe 3,800 people. Our Aunt and Uncle have a beautiful home there, just off the banks of the Chattahoochee River, and offered it to my harried clan for the weekend. We’ve always tried to be the family that’s not experience-rich and relationship-poor. But with four athletic boys, one over-achieving wife, and a job or two, finding all of us running in different directions is not uncommon.
So for this weekend, we put ourselves in timeout.
We took ourselves out of the normal, chaotic rhythm in which all families fall into – and somehow become comfortable in – and begrudgingly disconnected from the pacifiers of phone, computer, TV and routine. For two full days, we were in time out. Not the aforementioned punishment where a misbehaving child is forced to remain silent in a single spot. But the type of timeout where a family is provided the opportunity to just – be still.
The writer of the 46th Psalm expressed the value of being still in this way, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s my belief that God is indeed the source of stillness and the richness of the condition. Now whether you believe what the Bible says or not, you cannot deny the power of being still. And you don’t have to be surrounded by rivers, woods and mountains – though I highly recommend it – to witness the power of stillness. Try it. See what you find. When you sit alone with your family, without the umbilical cords of Twitter and Facebook, without the senseless reporting of news outlets, what remains?
What will you find when you’re still?
My son and I spent an hour or two, alone, in the clear, waist-deep water of the Chattahoochee, looking for imagined Civil-War era muskets for him, and for the perfect skipping rock for me. We worked on our discoveries, showing our trophies, and did so within the Chattahoochee’s quiet progress.
We were still. Together. Not a single treasure did we find. But the value of time spent in each other’s company was immeasurable. For two full days, our family was blessed with the opportunity to just be together and to be still. And today, with the middle school’s open house (in 20 minutes), tomorrow’s meetings to prepare for, and football and soccer in full swing, we’re back in the game – and richly blessed from the timeout.
Side note: The rocks I threw that weekend hit their mark as well…still got it. And this time, no one was spanked.