The theme of this year for me has been trust and rest. I am not good at either of those, it seems. And they are definitely intertwined in my life. I struggle a lot with feeling that I always must be productive, always working and doing something. I seem to equate resting with being lazy. Yet God commands us to rest. He demonstrated this concept for us by resting himself after six days of work. Jesus took breaks from his ministry. He slept, he stole away from people to rest and recharge. Our bodies are not made to work indefinitely without rest, certainly not at top functioning capacity.
I had recently been feeling frazzled and overwhelmed (two major signs that I am in need of rest). I know it was because I had allowed my schedule to become too crowded for rest, quiet and refreshment (as an introvert, times of quiet are very important). I have been trying to acquire a more relaxed, unhurried rhythm to life and my schedule but my desire to be productive and to accomplish has been steadily creeping back in, especially as we approach the holidays. (I think we all associate the holidays with a flurry of busyness and lots of extra activities, but who says we have to accept every opportunity and get swept up in the craziness? Who says November and December have to feel rushed and demanding instead of peaceful and joy-filled? We can slow down or remain steady and continue to maintain breathing room in our days and weeks. We can have a simple, pleasant season if we are mindful about what is truly needed and important.)
I decided two days ago that I would spend all of my free morning the next day while both kids were in school focusing on my spiritual health and drawing closer to God. (Usually on Mondays I go to a yoga class I love, but last week I went to a different one on Wednesday that I enjoyed almost as much and decided afterward that it could be an acceptable substitute for Monday’s class if I ever needed more flexibility in my routine. This made it infinitely easier to not go to this morning’s class and instead be able to follow through with the idea of a spiritual health day.) Before I took J to preschool I prepared the front room (my chosen space) by putting my Immanuel/Gratitude Journal, other notebooks, the Bible and Jennie Allen’s Nothing to Prove book near my chosen seat.
I dropped J off and returned home, heading immediately to my red couch. I started by doing a brain dump of everything swirling in my mind onto a notebook page (mainly my to-do list). When I was finished, I meditated for a few minutes using an exercise to help me focus and relax – taking some deep breaths and then checking in to all five senses (what I could see, hear, feel, taste and smell). Then it was on to writing in my Immanuel/Gratitude Journal which I love. This exercise always helps reveal things in my heart I may not have realized. And, of course, this is where things took a turn away from my planned, productive morning with God (as is usually the case when truly meeting with God). While journaling, God showed me that I am still too busy and failing to rest, evidenced by the fact that I had created quite an agenda for my morning. He cited my to-do list and the stack of notebooks and books as proof that I struggle so much with resting. Below is an excerpt.
I appreciate your effort though you are still focusing too much on doing and not enough on just being and resting in my presence. You work too much. Rest more…Trust that any and all time with me is wisely used even if it doesn’t check anything off of the to-do list…You feel pressure to constantly be doing but that is not from me. I invite you to come and rest. The enemy wants you to be too busy to love and serve, too overwhelmed and exhausted to be kind and generous and patient and present. Don’t fall into his trap of busyness and performing to receive approval. You already have my approval…I am glad to teach you the unhurried rhythm of grace. Be content just to be with me…Trust me. Trust my ways…I can do something about your fear. You don’t have to hurry through your day. Resting does not make you lazy. The world will not fall apart. I rested to show you that it is good and necessary. You do not have an endless supply of energy. Recharging is necessary; it’s how I made you. I made you to be insufficient, to be not enough so you would see your need to depend on me and so that my power can be seen through you.
I want to use my time wisely and he reminded me that no time with him is wasted even if my to-do list remains undone. I have long struggled with being able to just rest and do nothing. I am driven by the clock and my to-do list and desire for accomplishment. It was convicting and encouraging to have God remind me that he sees me, he sees my striving, and he can give me true peace and rest if I will trust him and surrender in obedience.
As my Immanuel Journaling time was winding down I was beginning to yawn and feel sleepy, relaxed even. The following internal dialogue occurred:
Me 1: Perhaps, I do need some real, physical rest.
Me 2: No, that’s a waste of time.
Me 1: Perhaps this is an opportunity to trust God and be obedient.
Me 2: Well, perhaps. If it’s a short one. Can God guarantee it’ll only be about twenty minutes?
There are things to be done!
Me 1: No, God is not negotiating. He is simply asking me to exercise faith and trust.
Okay, God, make this time holy.
So I managed to not look at my watch (miracle of miracles!) before I curled up on the little red couch I was sitting on and closed my eyes. I drifted in and out of consciousness, praying some, listening a bit to the sounds of the house. After awhile, my brain kicked back on more alert than before and I wondered how much time had passed. I was more easily able to avoid looking at my watch because it wouldn’t be able to tell me anything useful. I decided the best thing would be to ignore clocks for the remainder of my morning and let my phone alarm alert me to when it was time to end my quiet morning and pick J up from preschool.
I really need to become more relaxed with time. It’s a compulsion to know what time it is or how much time remains before the next activity on the schedule. I should just sent alarms for the important things and not worry about exact time. Instead I use known time to try to squeeze in as much as I can. I can’t relax because I am waiting for time to signal the next thing. In fact, before I started my spiritual time this morning, I thought perhaps I would get it all knocked out with enough time to do several things on my to-do list. It’s an unhealthy habit and mindset. It keeps me from being fully present where and with who I am and cuts down on peace, rest and enjoyment of life.
I loved our fall break at the beach when I kept my watch in a drawer for the week and just enjoyed where I was and what I was doing with minimal regard for time. It was glorious and I wish I could live like that all of the time. Perhaps there’s something in between that’s still healthy and would improve my quality of life.