Saturday, December 4, 2010

{ Learning to be still }

One of my deepest needs is for alone time, for quiet and space to just be. To think, pray, journal, process, write, decompress. Ironically, choosing to use my time this way is one of the most difficult things for me to do nowadays, even though I have repeatedly reaped the disastrous consequences of not making this choice.

Because I was homeschooled and lived on a very rural farm till I was nearly 18, I did not realize the necessity of alone time to my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health till I was an adult. Growing up, solitude was at my fingertips. I was surrounded by acres of empty land, thousands of opportunities to be alone with God and my thoughts. I could choose to spend hours by myself, recharging my batteries in the calm of the outdoors, whenever I wanted. Even after I moved to the city and began attending college, I still had plenty of space to be "me." Most of my free time was taken up with studying {a blessedly solitary task}, and the fact that I didn't have a car or many local friends meant that downtime was still relatively easy to come by.

Still I did not see how these margins of quiet fed my soul. Still I did not recognize how absolutely vital these times of solitude were to my well-being.

When I began volunteering at the new evening service at church and attending a community group {fancy lingo for Bible study} full of other singles, my social life blossomed. I made friends. I met Mike and swooned. My free time was suddenly full of girlfriends, movie nights, group swing dancing lessons, texting Mike, and after-church get-togethers. Alone time? Who needed that? I was surviving on five or six hours of sleep a night, thankyouverymuch! I certainly didn't need to take a few hours on Saturday to journal when I could be doing something much more exciting!

I crashed and burned last November. It was terrifying and so, so, so humbling. Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about it was realizing how poorly I know my own self. I was the last person to recognize the crippling physical symptoms and panic were the results of suffocating myself under busyness, endless tasks, and a lifestyle where literally every single minute was packed with something to do, to the point where even sleep seemed like a waste of time. I am the one who chose to make to-do lists and checking off boxes the highest priorities in my life. To be sure, there were stresses beyond the personal ones: Work was truly a nightmare, demanding every ounce of strength and long, long hours of overtime. Mike was restarting his business and I was the only one bringing home a paycheck. But on top of that, I wanted to be (A) in control, and (B) perfect. And I certainly couldn't afford to take long walks or journal when pursuing control and perfection!

You'd think I learned my lesson. I am realizing, however, that "every intention of the thoughts of [my] heart [are] only evil continually" {Genesis 6:5}. I cling to Jesus when I am at the end of my rope. I set boundaries and define margins when I have no other options. Gradually, as sanity and health and wholeness begin to feebly re-emerge in my heart and mind, I immediately fill newly-erected margins with "stuff:" the same stuff that broke me in the first place. How quickly I forget the pain of being my own god! How rapidly I turn from Jesus to the death from which He saved me!

Ours is a gracious and merciful God. I have learned that people {primarily my husband} are more important than tasks. I don't mean to scare you, but my standards of housekeeping have lowered considerably over the last year as I learn to choose nurturing relationships over cleaning the bathroom. But more often than not, I still cram activities, events, and people into places in my life where only quiet should be. I fill margins that ought to be left open, time for Jesus to speak into my heart. Time for me to process what's going on in my life. Time to pick up my scattered thoughts and weave them into wholeness...time to process, time to think, time to be.

I had a meltdown earlier this week. I refused to go to community group, snapped at my husband, chose to clean the kitchen and do laundry rather go on a date with him, and cried because for weeks there have been literally multiple trails of grey-green mold growing in the toilet bowl. I felt suffocated. And deep inside, I knew that what I really needed wasn't to make a list of tasks and accomplish them. What I needed was time.

In His mercy, the Lord gave me a gracious husband who forgives me when I sin against him. He also gave me another choice: A Saturday morning completely alone {Husband is out of town this weekend} and the opportunity to fill this space with either to-do list tasks or the things that feed my soul. Considering that I'm writing one of the longest blog posts in history, you can probably guess which I've chosen.

May the words of my mouth and the
meditation of my heart
be pleasing in Your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my
Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14


  1. Beautiful post! Praying you will continue to seek and find those quiet times, in a society that moves at such a hectic pace it can certainly be a challenge!

  2. This is precious. Your heart is so beautiful.

  3. I love you so much. This post is so convicting to me. It a sweet and beautiful, " but Mary has choosen what is better..." sort of way.

    You are so dear to my heart. And I am praying with a little ache in my heart for you right now. xo