What if the Pause is Actually the Point?


brenda lee sasaki -pause is the actual point3

Until recently, I viewed a pause strictly in linear terms: the TV remote pauses the movie, allowing me time to go to the bathroom, check my email, let the cat out, heat up a burrito and then return to my well-worn couch. Then, with one click, the movie carries on.

Rarely did I consider what took place in the pause. It was merely a convenient interruption for me to be in control and accomplish all I needed to. I thought a pause was the time to refuel before getting back to the main attraction.

When pauses interrupted my own life, I viewed them through the same lens. Whether unexpected or planned, the pause was something I was to control or regain control over, to pass through until I could get back to real life—the important work, my pathway of influence and purpose.

But what if I got it all wrong? What if the pause was actually the point of life and everything else was merely a distraction? Interesting, tough, mysterious and often soul-filling, but a distraction nonetheless?

I became curious about this idea this past Fall when I found myself thrust into an unanticipated pause that disrupted my perfectly color-coded, bullet-journaled, ordered life.

On August 1, I found myself in the emergency room double over with unbelievable pain in my abdomen. After CT scans, and blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, morphine drips and referrals to a variety of specialists, by mid-August my doctor handed me a note that said, “No further work until medically cleared.” With the stroke of her pen, all my syllabus revisions and powerpoint lectures, to-do lists, board meetings, client calls and networking events were to be folded up and put into a box, tied tightly with twine and tears.

No work. No stress allowed. No idea what was wrong with me. No answers.


I was angry and bewildered.

And then I was afraid. But it was not what you might think. Yes, I knew physically I was in a great deal of pain and yes, when they said the word “cancer,” time seemed to stand still and my heart, in fact, froze momentarily. Repeating those words over the phone to my husband while choking back tears in the hospital parkade still takes up precious space in my recent memory.

The truth is, I was afraid of being forgotten. I was afraid of becoming irrelevant; left behind. For the past six years I’d worked in several interesting organizations while pursuing graduate studies. I worked my ass off getting two Masters Degrees and  re-assembling much of my theological and leadership frameworks in order to move into new arenas of engagement and influence. In June, I stepped down from my bi-vocational job pastoring in order to devote my energy and focus into forging and forming these new opportunities.


My right brain kicked into high gear and I began to recite these familiar refrains, “I’ve got this. This too shall pass. It is only for a few months. You have experience working on your laptop while recovering, Brenda.”  This pause was only a commercial, I told myself, and soon enough I will get back to my regularly scheduled life.

I was still holding on to the remote, pressing and releasing the pause button frantically. Trying to control the breaks and the interruptions. Trying to fast forward to the part where I was well again and warrioring on, kicking down doors and hammering away at stained glass ceilings. You know, the important work.

Or so I thought.

Stretcher. Surgery. Incision. Blood. Tubes. Fluids. Stitches. Staples.


And the pause gave way to silence.


And the silence gave way to more silence.

And in time, I came to realize that silence is not punishment nor is it inconsequential.

But rather:  Silence. Is. Something. Else. Altogether.

Silence takes up space. It hovers and moves into expansive places while at other times recedes into the tiniest of cracks and crevices. It fills up my lungs, reverberates in my head, throbs deep in my veins. It enfolds me so tightly that at times I find I cannot catch my breath.

And in this pause of silence, I found I was not alone. My deepest fear of being forgotten was being undone.

The writer of Genesis uses four carefully chosen words to begin his creation narrative, “In the beginning God …” (Genesis 1:1) Notice that before they even began to create, they were. Yes, their existence made creation possible but their existence was Something. Else. Altogether.

And maybe that’s the point, too. Being for the sake of being is enough, in and of itself. Yes, we were meant to create and do good works, to experiment, do hard things and live out of the abundance of our gifts and skills and callings and vocations. But maybe the pause, the embodiment of simply being, is what truly makes us invaluable. And it is in the pause that our greatest accomplishment of living and breathing in and out are realized.

Perhaps that’s why our Creator chose to have us enter the world as helpless babes, utterly dependant on others to help us survive and having no greater purpose than to be cuddled and fed and changed.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s why they also chose to enter into this world in the same way, as a stark reminder on that not-so-silent night that being is first and foremost a revolutionary act of resistance against the tyranny of the accomplished.