Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lonely Places

I am busy. I suspect you are, too. Modern Western society values busy-ness greatly. The busier we are, the better we tend to feel about ourselves. Our self-importance inflates. And there is so much busy-ness to choose from! Work, school, children, church, friends... they all compete in our psyche to win a place of prominence in our lives. I am no different from anyone else. There are days where my head is still spinning as our family (or the few who are home at the time) gathers around the table to consume a cereal supper because I was busy with something else of self-proclaimed importance. These past few years, though, I have been waging a quiet war with busy-ness, and along the way I have even won a few battles.

As a Homeschool Mom, my battles tend to center around kids, education, and church. With three kids, there is always an event to attend or math to grade. My condition isn't unique. Parents of traditionally educated children struggle with homework, work, and conflicting schedules. The battle rages and we grow more and more exhausted and discontented. Our marriages suffer. Our health deteriorates. Our peace erodes. Before we know it, we are in full-blown crisis mode, either ill or relationally damaged.

The symptoms of stress are many and varied. They affect multiple systems in our body and have far-reaching consequences. Among the most common are:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Stomach Problems
  • Insomnia
  • Chest Pain
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Feelings of unworthiness/self-esteem issues
  • Forgetfulness
  • Disorganization
  • Depression
  • Focus Issues
  • Fear
  • Reliance on chemicals (alcohol to sleep, caffeine to wake up, sleeping pills, etc.)
  • Weight gain
  • And so much more!
Quite literally, stress kills. It kills joy. It kills relationships. It kills the body. It kills the soul.

A few years ago, I read a fabulous book. Entitled Margin:  Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Richard Swenson, M.D. 

Dr. Swenson went into great detail about the consequences of living margin-less lives, the above list being only a small smattering of issues. Our busy-ness is killing us as a culture in more ways than one. I suspect that it is in large part responsible for our approximately 50% divorce rate, our educational challenges, and our healthcare crisis. It rips people and relationships apart. It is a battle I wage within myself that I lose more times than I care to admit.

When I find I am acutely struggling with something, I find that the Source of Comfort is critical to me. I open my Bible and search for wisdom. This past week at church I was reminded in the sermon of these words:

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."

Jesus serves as a model for how I should deal with stress and busy-ness. Immediately prior to this verse, Jesus had healed a leper. The news was out about Him, and people were constantly coming to Him, seeking to be healed of their illnesses. He had so much work to do, and He loved the people who came to Him. He had an authentic heart and passion for people, yet He pulled back from their very real needs. He pulled back to the Source of His strength and communed with His Father, not once, but often.

When we withdraw from the busy-ness of our lives, when we allow the opportunity for the voice of God to come, we open ourselves up to healing and hope. How can we nurture others when we run around empty and uncertain ourselves? In short, we can't. The faster we go, the greater we fall. The center cannot hold. Much as we appear to want to be, we are not gods.

I truly want this new school year to be a blessing to my children. I want my husband to feel loved and respected. I recently purchased a book, Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie, that I am looking forward to reading in my quiet time. Along with the book, I'm journaling again. 

I hope you can reach out and grasp a little rest for your weary soul. Start small, perhaps five minutes or so a day. Claim it and look for ways to create more. Read. Write. Rest. Another of my favorite books is One Thousands Gifts:  A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp. As you build this new habit, may it become a source of blessing and renewal and by extension bless those you love!

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” 
― Augustine of HippoThe Confessions of Saint Augustine
Have tea, will journal!

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