“George Gershwin is a jerk!”
I first said these words in the summer of 2003. Having graduated from college one year earlier, I was hitting my first real summer as a working adult. Sure, I had held jobs when I was out of school other summers, but they had been easy employment that I did because I wanted to have money to spend during the school year. And in 2002 I had just graduated and spent that summer excited to be in a job that was using my degree and pursuing a vocation.
But the summer of 2003 was different. When Memorial Day rolled around my life did not change. There was no celebration of the end of school. There was no change of location. There was no mindless job that let my brain rest. Everything. Stayed. The. Same. I continued working at the same job doing the same things in the same place. The only thing that changed was that the temperature in Orlando, Florida grew progressively, and oppressively, hotter. So when someone first sang out that beautiful Porgy and Bess ballad, “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” I channeled all my frustration at adult life squarely onto Mr. Gershwin. While my living was not really that hard, it was not the easy summer living I had experienced in the past.
The truth is, summers haven’t gotten any easier since then. With the addition of kids, summer becomes a time of arranging childcare, vacations, camps, and too much free time for the little ones. While I cherish the time I get to spend with my three boys for a week or two of vacation, summer doesn’t always seem to offer more time to breathe and relax than the rest of the year.
This past Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost at The Gathering. Instead of focusing on Acts 2, however, we looked at the other lectionary reading from John 20: 19-23, when Jesus appears to the disciples and breathes the Holy Spirit onto them following the resurrection. In scripture, the Holy Spirit often is described as breath, wind, or the air around us. Even Yahweh, the name of God given to Moses, is meant to imitate the sound of breathing. God’s presence is in and around all things; it is the life force that is found in everything.
However, the busyness of life can keep us from being aware of the presence of God. Even though “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19) and there is nowhere we can go from God’s presence (Psalm 139), it is easy to get lost in our day-to-day lives and not take the time to cultivate connection with God. Just like it is important for us to take vacations that remind us that our work is not all we are about, it is important to set aside time to breathe and allow ourselves to tune into God’s presence around us. It could be as simple as taking a walk to look in wonder at creation, making a point to worship together each week, or setting aside a few minutes each day to still ourselves, clear our minds and breathe the very name of God.
This summer many of us will get to take vacations, most of us will keep on working, some of us will arrange and rearrange childcare and children, but very few of us would say that the living is “easy.” I hope you can find time to relax and enjoy the summer, and also find time to breathe, to connect, and recognize and become more aware of the presence of God all around you. That is something that will make all the seasons more enjoyable.