There were six or seven of us surrounding nearly empty plates (and not quite as empty wine glasses), leaning back in our chairs. We were busy taking those last bites that you do not need but cannot resist, when someone asked a question.
What spiritual practices are helping you these days?
It was a meddlesome question.
After a few deep sighs and furrowed brows, we began to share. I think someone mentioned silence, a few probably talked about bible reading, but there was only one answer that I remember, its simplicity and beauty piercing me.
“Before I email someone, I picture their face, and I hold it in my mind. I close my eyes and smile as I think about that person, remembering what it is that I love about them. Then I write the email.”
Email can be dehumanizing. We sometimes write things we would not say in person. Tone is lost. We either write way too much or far too little. Mostly, email is just a black hole. What if practicing email in this new way was a way of practicing the presence of God during a very ordinary, sometimes annoying daily routine?
- Set some time blocks to go through email versus trying to respond to every email as it comes. My experience is that when I am opening up my email throughout the day at random, it depletes my energy. Give email shorter, scheduled bursts throughout the day.
- Before you read an email from someone, if it’s someone you know, stop and picture their face for 5-10 seconds in your mind. If unpleasant emotions come with that face, invite Jesus to stand in between you and that person. If pleasant emotions come, stay with those emotions. Studies show that our sense of contentment and joy grows as we intentionally linger on positive memories.
- Before you respond to the email, once again, stop. Picture the person’s face in your mind, speaking words of peace and blessing to that person, very simply. No need to get super wordy. This doesn’t need to take more than 15 seconds. God, I place this person in your good care is a great prayer.
This practice strikes me as simple, enjoyable, and repeatable. It also strikes me as revolutionary. Instead of muddling your way through your inbox, grinding your gears until you just get it all done, what if it became an exercise of peace and prayer? What if you felt more full and more whole after 30 minutes of emailing?
Let me know how it goes.