What does it mean to be awake?
- Awake means whatever happens after I hit the alarm clock
- Awake is how I feel after my first cup of coffee
- Awake is when adrenalin is running through me, I’m focused and my muscles are tense and I’m ready to go.
Like most of the most important questions in our life of discipleship with Christ – and being awake is a key theme of the Gospels and definitely for this first Sunday of Advent – the answer is counterintuitive to what our self-serving instincts may tell us.
For example: How can I be great with God? Humble yourself. How can I be my best self? Drop your ego. How can I be blessed? Be a blessing to others, especially those in need.
So, now, from a Gospel perspective, what does it mean to be awake? (And here’s a hint: it doesn’t mean having our neck swiveling and our eyes popping out.)
Listen to this meditation from the great black theologian Howard Thurman:
How good it is to center down! To sit quietly and see one’s self pass by!
The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic; Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,
While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment
and the resting lull.
With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes, a fresh sense of order in our living;
A direction, a strong sure purpose that will structure our confusion and bring meaning in our chaos.
We look at ourselves in this waiting moment – the kinds of people we are.
The questions persist: what are we doing with our lives? – what are the motives that order our days?
What is the end of our doings? Where are we trying to go?
Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused?
For what end do we make sacrifices?
Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life?
What do I hate most in life and to what am I true?
Over and over the questions beat in upon the waiting moment.
As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes of our turbulence,
there is a sound of another kind –
A deeper note which only the stillness of the heart makes clear.
It moves directly to the core of our being.
Our questions are answered,
Our spirits refreshed, and we move back into the traffic of our daily round
With the peace of the Eternal in our step.
How good it is to center down!
So what does it mean to be awake? Try centering down, a la Howard Thurman, and you’ll know.