I’ll never forget the moment the word “busy” rung in my ears like a curse word. My grandmother, whom I loved dearly, was battling stage 4 lung cancer. She had been in treatments, had lost her hair, and I lived several hours away but spent as many weekends with her as I possibly could. I worked in a boutique law practice with a demanding schedule, so she didn’t call too often even though I always loved hearing from her. One afternoon when I was in a meeting I missed her call. Her fragile voice lingers with me still, “Hey sweetie, it’s Mommom. I just missed you, I know you’re busy though, maybe we can talk another time. I love you.” I kept her voicemail message for over a year so I could hear her voice long after she passed away, which was only 5 months later. My heart broke all over again when I had to get a new phone and lost that precious message. I not only wanted to remember what her voice sounded like saying “I love you” but that being “busy” was not my highest aim in life. In fact, it was something I wanted to intentionally avoid at all costs.

We’ve all said it. We’ve all responded to this question with the same kind of answer.

“Hey! How are you doing?”

You/me/the wifi world in full chorus:

“Busy.” “I’m just so busy!” “Slayin’ it girl!” “Hustling” “Staying busy” “Working it girl, you know.” “Slammed!” “Swamped!” “I have so much on my plate this season!” “Trying to stay above water” “Just staying crazy busy” “Trying to catch my breath!” “Needing a vacay yesterday” “I’m just so stressed…” “We’re like ships passing…” “Stretched thin” “Not sure if I’m coming or going” “Life feels out of control” “We’re just trying to make it.” “Good – busy, but good.” “It’s been non-stop.”

It may be that of all the plagues of humankind’s history, the epic wipeout for humanity today keeping us from living connected and thriving lives is of the most dangerous kind. Its origin is not animal, vegetable or mineral. It’s not a disease that starts in the body.

It’s a disease in our soul.

The bottom-line: We are in a big fat hurry! We are trying to do too much because we believe we can and should and have to because we have an exaggerated view of our importance and a diminished view of God.

If I’m self-aware and honest in my rushed moment(s) – I believe my world will fall to pieces if I stop hurrying even for five minutes.

It’s not that we are consciously trying to deny the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we just completely forget what it means for our daily life.

I sat as the sun rose on a recent quiet retreat. Minutes before it broke through tiny birds hugged the shoreline for what seemed like a mile, making the loudest noise. Tiny prophets alerting us all to pause and pay attention, the sun was about to rise. Once it broke through they all scattered to the skies, as if dancing in celebration that they had not missed it.

Pastor and author John Ortberg once asked his famous mentor Dallas Willard* what one thing he would recommend to strengthen his spiritual life. Dallas Willard simply said:

You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.”

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.

Curly branches and Spanish moss in St. Augustine, Florida.

But how? This sounds wise and wonderful, but what does this look like? Even if I agree something has to change in my hurried life, where do I start? Some people and commitments in our lives are non-negotiable, like family and work. They require our attention every week and should get high billing which we will talk more about later this month.

So what gives? How do we know what to do – or not do – first?

Last week we established that for our discussion of “our main things” in this little writing space, God’s Word would be our grid. Call it our worldview, our filter, or our system of “government” to bring order to the chaos generated by our many daily decisions. Using God’s Word as our grid to bring order to our lives we find clear direction for what to make FIRST priority in our day, our weeks, and in our lives. We see God direct us in it by example (Genesis 2:2) and we see Jesus make it His priority as well (Mark 6:31-32):

REST.

While this certainly includes the practice of Sabbath weekly, as is instructed in Scripture (Exodus 16:23), entering a rest for our souls is not limited to a day of the week or going to church or taking a day off work. Rest is something we are relatively unfamiliar with for several reasons. One, our culture does not support it. Marketing campaigns thrive on the art of distraction, whatever can catch our attention and create desire within us. A science of the brain is skillfully researched and applied to keep us engaged and returning for more. Also, we don’t understand what Sabbath is for, or what rest is meant to provide for us, or even just how to do it. I use to think it was boring to sit still, ineffective to pray quietly. I felt lazy and irresponsible embracing rest when I could be so much more productive with my time. {This is a big alarm by the way, the focus on my productivity with my time…}

Another reason we either neglect creating intentional space for rest, or directly avoid it altogether, is that we are unsure or rather afraid of what we will hear (or not hear) in that blank space with God.

 

Theologian Henri Nouwen describes how our initial experience in complete quiet and aloneness with God may feel and why we may avoid it:

Solitude is not a private therapeutic place. Rather, it is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born…

In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me – naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken – nothing.  It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.

But that is not all. As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree. Anger and greed begin to show their ugly faces. I give long, hostile speeches to my enemies and dream lustful dreams in which I am wealthy, influential, and very attractive – or poor, ugly, and in need of immediate consolation. Thus I try again to run from the dark abyss of my nothingness and restore my false self in all its vainglory…

The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ” (The Way of the Heart, p. 27-28).

Friends, I totally get “monkey brain.” Do you? It’s a scary world in my head some days. I mean, a man took the first brave step to go to the moon, but to go into a woman’s head when she hasn’t slept in days and hormones may or may not be aligned…that is bravery. And I haven’t always had it.

I grew up with the TV always on, music always on, activities always planned, friends always on phones, busy – doing – going – always. I grew up running from a “dark abyss of nothingness” as Nouwen described. Then in college I experienced pain points that brought me to a screeching halt. I couldn’t deny the pressure and shame and fears any longer. My soul was desperate for God’s peace and I found a place of conversion, of ceasing from fixing myself and my problems and entering God’s rest, trusting He could do for and through me what I could not. There was a death, but there was such beautiful life too because Jesus met me in my surrender, and that is where I met rest.

Being still and quiet, embracing solitude as a means of embracing rest, can feel scary when we have unresolved grief, conflicts wide open, anger or resentment brewing, fears, unmet longings, destructive habits, and so on. {Ok, this is everybody.} But we aren’t going into a cave alone with all the horrible things that could happen to us or could be true about us.

Entering God’s rest, or practicing Sabbath, is not so much time off as it is time with – and with a Person who unconditionally loves you.

We can only survive solitude if we cling to Christ there” (Dallas Willard, Spirit of the Disciplines).

To rest is to root in, to cling to, to be with…Jesus.

Our work, whatever we do, is meant to come from a place of rest first. This includes our relating, parenting, serving, sharing, entertaining, and recreating; our entire lives that play out in our weekly planner flow best from a place of rest. But this will not come naturally. We have to set our sails and then God will blow us where we need to go.

Choosing God’s rest as our MAIN THING – even our FIRST THING – takes practice.

We can be trained to do it by choosing to do it. We can develop new habits of living and working in a state of rest, of clinging to Jesus while we live and work.

Choosing rest is less a release of something we love, and more a clinging to Whom loves us.

With practice, over time, we shape our souls to desire God’s rest because we will just desire God. Just as my husband and I are practicing a way of eating that contains less sugar and more of the kinds of foods that nourish us, we first choose it and the new appetite comes later. But it does happen. Our appetites do change, our cravings do shift, and the benefits of the new way of eating (we believe will) outweigh whatever could be seen as loss. Embracing Sabbath will bring our souls back into alignment with how they were intended to function and we will begin to recognize the difference between living from a rested place versus living from a rushed place. And you will gain momentum too as your brain will rewire. The pleasure center in your brain will eventually reward you for doing nourishing things for your soul (instead of just numbing pain) — like when you create space for your soul to take a deep breath and release grief or negative emotions in a way that brings you into greater freedom.

Once you experience soul rest with God you will never want to go back.

The Gospel reminds us that Jesus finished all the work that most-needed to be done on the cross. The work we now move into is NOT the work of earning love, securing our identity or validating our breath. Hallelujah! We can now rest on the inside while we live and move and do all our other things on the outside.

We had fun taking this picture with my truck, Wild Pearl, but now it serves as a reminder to me of the posture of rest – it is a posture of release, surrender, of trust in God while He steers my life. Photo credit: Jennie Case || Denim & Lace Photography

 

Starting our morning still and quiet with God is the wisest MAIN THING we can prioritize in our daily schedule. Sketching out our weekly plans from the still and quiet place with God can protect us from chasing validation in commitments we have no business being in. Centering with God on who we are, how we are uniquely gifted, why we are here and who we are becoming gives us direction for how to order all the other “stuff” in our lives. He may reveal to us something we can release, or to whom we can entrust responsibilities to, or how we can accomplish a task in a more efficient way. We may find that once we bring our “monkey brains” to God in a daily practice, that we don’t need all the TV noise, the car noise, the social media static in our heads as often. There is no end really to the benefits of prioritizing a regular space in time alone and quiet with God in our daily lives.

If you are a beginner to REST: here are some “plant small” ways you can start exercising rest with God!

  • Grab something to write on, something to write with, and set your timer for 5 minutes at the start of your day (then put your phone far from you!) Choose 1 Bible verse, or a Psalm like Psalm 23, something you can roll around in your mind and imagine the words and scene. As distractions come up, return to the verse, the words, the images. Ask Jesus to show you something wonderful in it, and make any notes of what comes to your mind. Thank God for what He shows you!

 

  • Pick one verse a day to meditate on in your car, ideally with no noise (forget it if you have kids in the car! Set the timer at home for some quiet moments instead.) Ask God to reveal Himself to you in His Word, and to reveal how He sees you too. Let the truth of what God sees and feels toward you start in your mind and work its way slowly into your heart over the next days and weeks. (If you aren’t sure how He sees you, send me a message and I can send you a helpful resource to guide you in His Word! Just a Hey Mama Bear, that’s me! to amotherofthousands@gmail.com)

 

  • Maybe consider using a Word-filled app if you are in a pinch (alarm clock didn’t go off, and so on). These can be nourishing for our souls like a meal supplement is sometimes good when we are on the go, but still try to create a tech-free quiet space of even 5 minutes later in the day. No pressure, no rules here, just a kindness to your soul! Also, what I love about being in an app is you don’t get ads or other distractions popping up like when you are online. Here are some apps I enjoy in rotations: (1) Holy Bible – YouVersion. (What I love about this Bible app is that it gives you a “Verse of the Day” right in the beginning and will even notify you of it at a set time in the day. I have mine set for noon because it’s lunch time and I don’t know about you but this girl needs to remember God is with me right before I eat!) (2) Pray As You Go (the diverse accents and music make this one of my FAVORITE soul-friendly tech resources!) (3) First 5 (hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries) (4) Thrive Moms (5) Jesus Calling (It never fails that I open this app and find a verse that means something to me personally…Jesus is calling every day!) (6) GFCNOW (Grace Fellowship, Johnson City) I’m adding this last app because it’s my church and I LOVE our pastors. I highly recommend the sermon series titled “Intimacy With the Almighty” as a wonderful on-point resource.

 

  • And last but not least, my favorite soul-friendly (but techy) resource: Podcasts! I listen to at least one podcast a day usually, it just fits my personality and rhythm, it does NOT have to fit yours. Here are a few of my favorites for soul nourishment in particular: (1) Menlo.Church (2) soultalks (hosted by Bill and Kristi Gaultiere, psychotherapists and spiritual directors, and the co-founders of Soul Shepherding, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit ministry for men and women in ministry – which is all of us who choose to show up to our lives by planting small and rooting deep so we bear life! Their words have brought me MUCH instruction and encouragement on this topic!) (3) The Next Right Thing (hosted by a friend and virtual mentor, Emily P. Freeman) (4) At Home with Sally (I read Sally’s book “Own Your Life” several years ago and hers is now a good voice in my head. And with her podcast, her voice is really in my head!)

While I can give you all the tips and resources to help you start your own journey of prioritizing and embracing rest as your MAIN THING, only you can choose it. So what are you waiting for? Will you schedule that appointment for you to meet with God in a quiet place? Will you set that timer to go off and remind you to put it away so you can shift your attention with intention, to God with you. If you do, I would love to hear from you and email you back a free little 1-page resource I made: “God’s Answers to Your Question – God, What Do You Think of Me”.

Here’s a parting thought. What if we started owning our need for a quiet space for our souls with God. What if we set our timers for 5 minutes a day to be present with God. What if our souls stretched a little wider each time to receive more of God’s grace and unconditional love.

Might we became a generation of women whose response to the question, “How are you?” sounds a little more like this:

“Shew girl…I’m resting.”

…the thoughtful arrangement of your daily and weekly calendars is one of the holiest endeavors you can undertake.”

– Bill Hybels, Simplify

 

*Dallas Willard personally mentored and inspired hundreds of prominent Christian influencers, so if you are especially curious and nerdy (like me) you can pre-order the book about Dallas Willard’s life and spiritual formation journey (comes out later this month) here: “Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower.”