I’m in love with the word “linger.” Actually, I’m in love with the essence of that word. I’m not talking about forgetful lingering such as when you’re sitting at a red light and you forget to drive when the light turns green. That’s simply not paying attention. I have in mind, a purposed time of taking longer than usual with things of importance, things that sometimes are rushed.
You’re familiar with the fourteen “time” passages in Ecclesiastes 3, presented as opposites. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, . . . a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
Let’s focus on “there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” What I’m suggesting for this next week of rushed schedules, family gatherings, and baking and eating is to spend some time lingering. Lingering will boost your joy quotient in ways that busyness will not.
Lingering involves calming and quieting. Quieting means disconnecting from whatever worries assault you at present, giving the mind an okay signal to vacation from your worries for a few minutes. First, quiet your body. Be still. Halt the noise of your surroundings. Don’t shoot the cheery mockingbird outside your window, but do turn off the television, telephone, and the sound on the internet. Don’t let any pings, rings, or knocks disturb your settling down to relax.
That’s the easy part. Now try to quiet the noise behind your eyebrows. Turn off the list of stuff that you want to do. Turn off doubts. Turn off questions. Turn off negative thoughts, and practice Paul’s recipe for cleansing the inner person: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). A few minutes of quiet lingering can restore your focus, energy, and enthusiasm for life.
Having practiced stopping and quieting yourself, then carry that spirit of lingering into your noisy, always-on-the-move world. What will “lingering” look like there? It will be time to hold a granddaughter an extra five minutes as you read her favorite book. It will mean taking a deep breath and sitting longer with your hands wrapped around a mug of hot coffee. It means making time to sit by your spouse, hold hands, and simply be, even lingering over a kiss between you.
It will mean not entertaining regrets about spending extra time with people instead of trimming the hedges, dusting, cooking, making out a job bid, or cleaning out the gutters. On autumn days when David and I were newlyweds, he would ask me to go for a walk on our wooded acreage. Sometimes his invitation would come just as we finished supper and before I’d cleaned the kitchen. After declining his invitation a few times, he eventually said, “I don’t mind that the kitchen sink has a few dirty dishes in it. I’d rather have you with me, holding hands, and walking along the creek.” I learned to grab my flannel shirt and his warm hand and go for walks with my beloved.
Along these thoughts of lingering, I also have in mind a purposeful waiting on the Lord in silence. Again, prepare that sound barrier so you can linger over a psalm, pray, and wait for an answer. A peace beyond comprehension comes from such a meeting between the Lord and you. The Lord counseled hasty, out-of-sorts, and sinning Israel, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it (Isaiah 30:15).
Want to have the best Thanksgiving ever? Quiet your body. Be still. Halt the noise. Linger with a friend over lunch. Take a refreshing nap. Look long into the eyes of the person you love. Postpone an activity in favor of quietness and rest. Remain, delay, stay behind, dawdle, postpone, or reschedule. Take the time to linger. I imagine that you too may fall in love with the essence of the word linger.
Index card words for week 46: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1:3).