My life is so busy. Yours too, right?
Busy seems to be the cadence of our world, and I often hear proclamations from others (and from myself) on just how very busy we are; how there is always something more to do. For me, unfortunately, this busyness routine I’ve embraced over the years has generally transformed me into a person with the inability to rest easily or slow down, even when I should.
It usually takes a vacation: a complete separation from “normal” life in order to be able to lay aside my ever growing to-do list. I’m not proud of nor recommend this recipe for rest (vacations, even staycations can be expensive), but I’ve unconsciously trained my body into this cycle to differentiate its pace between normal life and vacation life. I wish I could be compelled differently, I truly do. I’m beginning to realize how I’m slowly edging my way into the kind of person who only does things that can be checked off a list, because it feels worthwhile. Sadly, that usually means “things” get first place and people get last place – and honestly, I don’t want to be that kind of person. And in a heart-wrenching moment of clarity, I confess that I don’t think the Lord created you to be that kind of person either.
My last few months have been full with graduations, travel, work commitments, and visiting friends − all good things, but a full schedule nonetheless. Now, for the first time in several months, I’ve had a couple of normal weeks. By normal, I mean weeks of a 40-hour work week, going to the gym, cooking meals, cleaning, lunch with friends, etc. But part of me has felt off since the routine of a life-at-home schedule has come. I’ve realized that when I’m bustling with to-do’s, my body is pacing in a rhythm of forward motion: constantly moving, constantly working toward something specific. And having time like I’ve had lately makes me feel as though I’ve come to a screeching halt – like I jumped out of a hamster wheel. And honestly, it feels weird. Instead of relishing a normal pace (since my body is not propelling forward), my heart becomes the moving wanderer. What’s next, it asks?
My calendar tells me what’s next: a meeting in Chicago, a birthday party, a house project, a family reunion.
But those aren’t the answers to the “what’s next?” question my heart is asking, and I know it. My heart isn’t asking about the next small step – the next dentist appointment or library book due, but what is the next big step? What will be the next event in my life the Lord will orchestrate to continue to fulfill His plan for my life? I don’t think about this question when I’m on the run. And it’s in this soul-searching question that discontentment rears its head. And in a moment of fear for what may be planted in my heart, I desire my hamster wheel pace of run-run-run instead of appreciating the ability to hear the Lord and His heart.
Psalm 46:10 is an oft-quoted verse for Christians: “Be still and know that I am God.” I think it can sometimes be the type of verse we rattle off so much that we disregard its depth of request. “Be still.” Two short syllables … 7 whole letters … and yet it’s a huge request. How often I fail Him in this command! But in this command, He’s asking exactly what my heart is afraid to do: Be still enough to listen to Him and trust that whatever He is asking me to do, or for whatever reason He is stirring my heart, it’s because He’s God, and He has a plan. And as the second part of that verse continues, He also assures me that whatever the next step is, it will exalt Him and bring Him glory – which is what my very soul desires, the renown of His Kingship, the glory of His name spread on this broken earth.
God asks us to be still because He knows how busy we are, and that busyness can sometimes make us hard-of-hearing. It’s hard to listen to our hearts when we’re running mock speed; and it’s even harder to hear God’s heart when we’re not pausing to listen for it.
This both convicts me and encourages me to be still and not fight the quiet moments. I want to hear God’s voice. And while I do hear Him, feel Him, see evidence of Him daily (even in my busy life), I think He requests and orchestrates times of pause, so I can hear Him when He wants to have a serious chat and need us to listen.
So my prayer – and hopefully yours – is this: Lord, help me to slow down enough to hear You and sojourn with You. And when You speak to me, help me to not be afraid and resist the temptation to jump on the hamster wheel of my to-do list. When I start down that path, would You catapult me? Help me to appreciate the slow moments and use that time to fearlessly and carefully listen for Your voice.
Johanna Inwood is a South Florida transplant now living in Colorado Springs, Colo. with her husband, Tim. She works in marketing for a Christian publishing house. Learn more about her at johannainwood.com.