I had been packing up pictures and wall decor for about an hour. My mind was trying to figure out how to fit a metal letter "R" into the same box as 4 rectangular picture frames, and it was a real life Tetris game that I was quickly losing. I was frustrated and tired and didn't want to pack anymore. So, when my daughter came to me with questions and tears in her eyes, I brushed her off as being over-dramatic, gave a quick-fix answer and sent her on her way.
Fifteen minutes later she came back informing me that her room decor was all packed. Really? My brow furrowed. Why would she voluntarily help me? I focused my brain long enough to process what was happening, and clarity finally showed up. I made the connections between her tears and questions a few minutes ago, and her sudden willingness to help us pack. She was upset that we are moving and packing her own stuff was her way of grasping for control in the midst of a situation that is completely out of her control.
I stopped my busy hands and pulled her close for a hug, letting her know that I was sad to be moving, too. Though we've only lived in this house for two years, it has been our home and it's hard to leave home. I listened to her fears and then I tried to explain that it would take some time, but the new house would feel like home, too. She nodded, sniffed and tried to pretend she was fine. I knew we'd come back around to this conversation again and prayed that God would help me to do better at listening next time.
I often struggle with listening. I can get lost very easily inside my own thoughts and busy work and don't even realize someone is talking to me. I'm known for missing large bits of important information in conversations with my husband. He is patient enough to repeat himself often. Quieting the noise in my mind is challenging, especially when I have a lot going on. The effort to hush the racket bouncing around inside is sometimes futile, and it seems easier to hush the cacophony outside of myself instead. Unfortunately, the hushing of my children usually ends with harsh words and an irritated tone, because until there is peace inside my heart, I have little kindness to offer my loved ones.
How does one balance the noise inside with the noise outside? How can one rest when kids are popping out of bed like a never ending whack-a-mole game? How can one pray when chaos overflows from the toy bin into your very soul? How can one have peace when a full sentence can't be said without interruption? Where is quiet? Where is stillness? Where is the mute button?!
I may or may not have just sent my kids outside to sit on the front step and listen for thunder. I just need 5 minutes of...I don't know what. And whatever it is, 5 minutes won't be enough. I will still feel chaotic and irritable when they come back in. Hmm...I hear thunder. Yes. Now they are inside again, batting around left-over balloons from a birthday party. I don't know if my sentence structure is reflecting these little noises. The clenched muscle on the right side of my neck sure is.
And yet, before children, I longed for these noises. The house was so quiet on Sunday afternoons with just me and my husband taking long uninterrupted naps. Remember? Yeah...I don't really remember those days either. I do know that I did not appreciate them nearly enough though.
I had a season about a month ago, where I did not feel so...frenzied?...that seems like the right word. It was a sweet season where sitting quietly, praying, and reading through scriptures wasn't hard. I felt solid, rested and sure of life. What happened? These past few weeks every prayer has crescendoed into a maddening mental list yelling about all that must be done. Like a train picking up speed until I'm frantically wondering what I am doing still sitting in my chair pretending to talk to God. "There's too much to do!" I say to myself.
Yet, I know that finishing the to-do list of what must be done is never going to bring peace. It only brings another to-do list that must be done. On and on we go. The train just goes faster and I think the brakes might be out.
Where is peace? Where is stillness?
I believe it is found in the presence of Christ. Resting in his presence goes beyond fulfilling our daily Christian duties. Yes, we pray and read, but there is a grounding that is found in the pursuit of Christ himself. If we do not pursue Jesus-the person, then the praying and Bible reading will just be more checked boxes on our to-do list. There will be no peace if he is not the goal of our praying and reading. I find that the reason my mind runs rampant when I try to pray, is usually because my prayers sound something like, "God, I need you to help me with such-and-such and so-and-so because there is so much to do..." and before I know it, my brain is screaming orders at me.
But, when I start with, "God, you are..." instead of "God, I need..." my perspective shifts. When I focus on his goodness, mercy, glory, and power, the voices in my head are silenced. They are subject to the majesty of the Almighty God. So, my thoughts must start and end with who he is and what he's done, not who I am and what I have yet to do.
I'm currently reading Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. She writes:
I'm finding that my ability to sit with Jesus makes me more present and connected...As I create space and imagination within myself to be heard by the actual person of Christ, my capacity to hear the people I love is increasing.
I do not have the capacity to hear the heart desire of each of my children and my husband. I fail over and over to understand the deep needs of their souls, let alone meet those needs. Yet, guilt plagues me when I see them struggling to be heard, and I fail to listen. Even when I am able to recognize their need and stop to help, I never feel like it's enough. Truthfully, I will never be enough to meet their deepest needs. That's not my place. It's Jesus'. He is more than able to meet them where they are and fulfill all their needs. My job is simply to point them to Jesus. That's really the only thing on my to-do list that must get done daily. Everything else is negotiable.
Our task is very simple-to love God and love these people he's created. We are the ones who make it complicated by adding our to-do lists and must haves. The things we must get done are not as urgent as we think. Yes, of course, a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, are all must haves. But, usually the things that are drowning us are not the necessities of life, but rather unnecessary burdens we've taken on ourselves- aka. activities and piles of stuff. We fill up our heads with so many UNNECESSARY tasks. No wonder we flounder to get it all sorted and done. We are prisoners in a cell we built with our own hands.
Where is freedom?
Everlasting peace is found in the finished work of Christ. He has done all that is necessary. All we must have is found in him. He provides for all of our needs "according to his riches in glory"-including our need for rest and peace. But we must trust him more than we trust our to-do list and our management skills. We must love him more than we love our stuff and opportunities for success.
When we rest in his presence, we have something better to offer those around us then more activities and more stuff. We have time to listen to their hearts when we stop filling our own hearts with lesser things. Jesus provides the space we need to be human, still growing in our sanctification, patiently enduring until we see him face to face. There it is! That's where I find peace. Right there in his grace. I can feel my heart lift. The noise in my head quiets. He is giving me space to be human, but he's not leaving me there on my own. He is patiently enduring with me until I am made complete and whole in him. Here is where I remember that everything is ok, even if everything else is coming apart at the seams and I can't find a quiet moment to think, I'm ok. Jesus is enough.
My prayer for you and me today is that we will know Jesus and that knowing him will provide rest for our souls and joy for our hearts.
So, then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:9-12
I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!" John 16:33