Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord; and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee. (Augustine)
It snuck up on me. I’m not usually a grumpy kind of person but I was so far behind and had so much to do that I’d surely never catch up this summer. I know I’m overwhelmed when two things start happening:
1. I find fault with everything. Around here there will ALWAYS be something to do or something that needs done. (Anybody?) We always have projects going and with a husband who travels a lot, things get done but on a timeline that is a bit slower sometimes…due to my lack of muscle/ability or his absence. It’s been this way for years and doesn’t bother me unless I’m feeling the weight of all of it because there is just so much to do.
Most of the time I look for the beauty of things, even in the chaos…I see the sunflowers instead of all the weed pulling that needs done. But when my heart is not at rest, I can only see the weeds. Oh, and the swing on the ground beside the frame it’s supposed to be hanging from that’s also sitting in one of those unfinished-til-fall-projects-because-it-got-too-wet-to-finish-in-the-spring. Did I mention the excavator that’s in the yard? Sigh…see what I mean?
2. I find myself feeling meh at things that usually bring me joy. Why did I plant such a big garden this year…these weeds are ridiculous! I put my head down, switch to go mode and work myself like a Clydesdale on an Amish farm. Get ‘er done becomes the battle cry.
Hurry up and run errands. Hurry up and cook dinner…oh who am I kidding…order a pizza or grab it and growl. Hurry up and do my Bible study. Hurry up and get through this book. Hurry up and get through this day. Hurry up and do the laundry…why do we have to wear all these clothes…thanks Adam and Eve! Hurry up and Get. It. Done.
I know I’m not alone. It doesn’t matter the what, most all of us run on a schedule that’s too full, having too much to do with too little time to do it. It makes us cranky and unthankful.
What if the solution wasn’t to go faster? What if it wasn’t to shore up the schedule to be more productive? What if the solution wasn’t less sleep or wishing you had more hours in your day? What if the very thing we need to do is S-L-O-W D-O-W-N?
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The way of Jesus is countercultural. It is upside-down and inside-out. A kingdom where weakness is power, power is weakness and suffering leads to glory.
Whoever is least among you is the greatest. (Luke 9:48)
Jesus said that in his kingdom the first will be last and the last will be first. (Matthew 20:16)
He told us to love our enemies and pray for them. (Matthew 5:44)
He chooses the foolish to shame the wise. (1Corinthians 18-31)
God’s power is perfected, not in how strong we are, but in our weakness. (2Corinthians 12:7-10)
His command in Psalm 46:10 is to stop striving (be still) and recognize He is God.
He tells us to stand still and let Him fight battles for us. (2Chronicles 20:15)
When things are out of control or overwhelming or there’s so much to do, the very last thing we think to do is to slow down, be still, stop striving, fighting, trying and look for God.
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One of my peers in Spiritual Direction wrote something that is simply beautiful. Here is what she said as part of a book review:
I felt validated and at peace when he said on page 40, “I believe there are three things that define the posture of good listeners: a contemplative attitude, an open spirit, and a humble perspective.” I believe I do this in my troubled times, if only between me and God. The other morning, I woke up and my nails were clinching into palms and making those moons. My daughter wasn’t doing well. I had a ton of work to do that day and I felt this sense of failure regarding my family and friendships. I didn’t want to get out of bed, so I asked God what to do and I felt the Lord say, “Do what you always do but slower and notice every moment.
So, I showered, noticing the drops and the warmth. I patted myself dry, noticing the threads of the towel. When I made my bed I smoothed my hands over every wrinkle. I sipped my coffee quietly and watched the swirls of cream and felt the warmth on my two hands as I lifted the cup. It was all so sacred. My spirit became open. I felt humbled to be alive and I was experiencing every moment. The fear of my failure melted as I moved into my tasks and all I could say was “Thank you.”
Notice nothing changed. Except her speed.
So I moved the above mentioned swing and frame to the back yard under a canopy of trees (pictured above) and got still. Using all of my senses:
I felt the temperature drop in the shade of the forest-like setting.
I heard the cat bird call reminding me that God cares about the birds…and me.
I sniffed the air and noticed it’s starting to smell like fall reminding me that time comes in seasons and no season lasts forever…find things to be thankful for in the season you’re in.
I watched as squirrels scampered, bunnies hopped, birds flew and was reminded of the One who is the maker of all things.
I basked in the glory of the sun that filtered through the trees and let out a sigh from the depths of my being.
I felt a sense of peace in the rhythm of that swing.
Slowing down was exactly what my soul needed. Maybe yours does too?