Do you ever get the feeling that God is trying to tell you something?
The complaint that we, meaning our family, and more specifically my husband, Ben and I are too busy is not a new one. We’ve been mulling over this predicament for years – 4 years and 7 months to be exact. We’ve been frantically trying to pull together pieces of the puzzle – switching new ones out for old, trying to match colour and shape, all the while never exactly knowing what the final picture is supposed to look like. There were big pieces that we pulled in intentionally, such as another educational designation, and others that seemed to find their way to our table unexpectedly…like Audrey (who fit perfectly from the start). We set some aside, such as my Master’s degree, and others that we tossed out completely such as “the real job I thought that I wanted but found out I didn’t”.
Some pieces however, were the ones that are very vague with no detail and yet, you know are critically important – thoughts, whispers, yearnings. You see, 5 years and 7 months ago, I was in a very wounded place. I felt less like a shadow of my former self and more like a battered, bruised and almost unrecognizable bloody mess. God and I were on speaking terms but not the nice kind. I was angry. I was very angry. I felt betrayed. Even so, I knew that God and I weren’t ready to call it quits. He had held on to me in the past and as much as I felt wronged, I knew he did not mean to harm me. I knew he was faithful and I knew that even though I was angry, bitter and hurt, I still needed God.
So we journeyed on, slowly, cautiously.
Eventually, over time, and I’m talking years, the callouses softened. We started talking a bit more and like in any relationship, moved through the actions, even if I didn’t feel like it. I met God mostly while I walked – in silence and solitude among the trees. Then one day, a few weeks ago, God said, Okay, that’s enough. Time to move on.
You see, you can go to the same market, or school or gym as someone for years and never actually get to know them. No, in order to get to know someone you need to talk. You need to intentionally and consciously take time to interact with them – go for coffee, invite them into your home and have a conversation. God didn’t just want to walk in the ravine with me anymore. He wants to commune.
Another piece of the puzzle and yet, still unsure where or how to fit it in.
Fast forward to this past week when I completed the 17 classes in 30 days challenge at a local Barre studio. It was both very rewarding and very challenging. It took a huge amount of discipline, during an extra busy season, to find a babysitter and get myself out the door to class but I did it! It reminded me how, if we really want to, we can make time. We can carve out time when we didn’t think we had any to spare. From the time I would leave the house to the time I would return home it was often close to 2 hours. So somewhere in my overcrowded monthly schedule I managed to find 34 extra hours.
Another piece of the puzzle – fits with the one before, but I still can’t seem to find a place for it in the big picture.
During my time at Barre, not to mention the to and from times (as I carpooled or walked with other moms in the neighborhood) I made a new friend. She told me about their life as a family and how she didn’t work because she was very aware that she needed time. She missed yoga (whilst going to barre like the rest of us – we all gave it up while this challenge was going on) because she needed that time of meditation in her life. How brave, I thought, not to carry on with the busyness, but rather give up a physician’s salary to practice self-care, or even self-preservation. She said that when she got to busy, she became a bad parent. She got angry and yelled and, obviously, did not want to be like that. Who does?
Another piece of the puzzle.
Another puzzle piece found its way to the table this week – Henri Nouwen’s book, Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life. I had no idea what this book was about when it arrived in the mail. In fact, I hadn’t even ordered it. Ben had ordered enough copies for his worship leaders, although he had never read it either, (just heard good things). I mean, it’s Henri Nouwen, how could it not be good? I don’t know why I snagged his copy but I did. I barely even read the title before I dived in one groggy morning when the kids had risen especially early.
Nouwen talks about how we live filled, and yet unfilled lives. He writes about how “busyness” has become a status symbol and yet, while being occupied with our busy lives, we are even moreso preoccupied with worry about the “if’s” in life. “Possible career changes, possible family conflicts, possible illnesses, possible disasters, and a possible nuclear holocaust make us anxious, fearful, suspicious, greedy, nervous and morose. They prevent us from feeling a real inner freedom. Since we are always preparing for eventualities, we seldom fully trust the moment.” Can I get an “AMEN!”? “Our individual as well as communal lives are so deeply molded by our worries about tomorrow that today hardly can be experienced.”
Our individual as well as communal lives are so deeply molded by our worries about tomorrow that today hardly can be experienced.
Nouwen explains that this worrying leaves us unfulfilled and this unfulfillment results in sentiments of boredom or disconnectedness, resentment and depression. And then Nouwen says something that I wasn’t expecting, “Jesus does not respond to our worry-filled way of living by saying that we should not be so busy with worldly affairs. He does not try to pull us away from the many events, activities, and people that make up our lives. He does not tell us that what we do is unimportant, valueless, or useless. Nor does he suggest that we should withdraw from our involvements and live quiet, restful lives removed from the struggles of the world.”
WHAT?! Did I just read that right?
All this time, all these 5 years, Ben and I have questioned over and over and over, “What should we get rid of?” “What should we quit?” Then just a week ago, before I read this book and after I had my little DTR (determine the relationship) with God, I said to Ben, “I don’t think we can change it. I think this is just where we are at – in this crazy busy stage of life and we need to find a way to get over it.”
At the time I said it, it seemed so contrary to everything else you read and think and hear and yet, Nouwen points out that Jesus doesn’t say change the pace or the contracts or the activities, but rather, change your heart. “Jesus asks us to move our hearts to the centre, where all other things fall into place.” This means make the life of the Spirit within and among us the centre of all we think, say and do.
Nouwen then goes on to say that this can only be done by practicing two disciplines: solitude and community and then he is very explicit in how to do this but ultimately that you need to make time. He says, “But we do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to him. We may have to write it in black and white in our daily calendar so that nobody else can take away this period of time. Then we will be able to say to our fiends, neighbors, students, customers, clients, or patients, ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve already made and appointment at that time and it can’t be changed.’”
Practicing solitude is just that, a discipline, just as practicing community is and one must see the spiritual life as a priority in order to have the determination it takes to practice these discipline regularly. The other day, I watched my son practice violin. He has to practice 40 minutes a day – it’s more often than not, agonizing. It’s a discipline and just like with learning an instrument, or losing weight, or working towards a desired characteristic or attribute discipline is required. These things never come easy or conveniently.
I found 34 hours in a month to go to exercise classes. The pieces come together.
I trust and pray that you will take what you need away from this long-winded post but I suppose my point is that it’s there for the taking. I hear it all the time, “I’m too busy.” But are we? We get one beautiful life. Let’s not spend it worrying about tomorrow. Instead, make time for what you need today.