Last week over coffee, my friend asked me, "Heather, what does the ground look like that you're standing on these days?"
I love her questions.
We've known each other for a long time so over time our understanding of each other has grown as well. As we continue to mature and grow up, we respond differently to different circumstances and she wanted me to identify what I was standing on, what foundationally was sustaining me as I made certain decisions etc.
I can't quite remember how I answered . . . but it was something about realizing and accepting from God that I have one role, simply, being myself in relationship with God and others, and that I am not responsible to manage other people's roles. The temptation to try and take responsibility for everyone, be hyper-attentive to people's needs and take on the burdens of others around me is a slippery slope for me. So if I resist this and focus on what and whom God is asking me to be, then I am free to love others, take a nap, run errands, be "not-available" or attentive at times and if/when I make a mistake or miss something important, I can take responsibility for it then, rather than trying to 'prevent' it from happening.
Later that week, she sent me these verses:
"You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re MORE ALIVE, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart." 2 Corinthians 7:9-11
That defines so well the tension that I see many of us live with. We want to be doing the right thing, loving others but we have this ongoing reality that we ourselves have needs too.
The minute we choose to stay home and start a puzzle with some good music, a cup of tea and a few hours to relax . . . guilt sneaks in and can steal our joy if we let it. On the other hand, if we say yes to every party or event or charity volunteer opportunity that comes our way because we don't want to offend anyone, then we can easily become exhausted and resentful and weary.
So how do we do it? How do we live with our own needs in a world that is broken and needy too? And for those of us who work in jobs or environments where we are care-givers for others . . . how do we take care of ourselves when those we love are hurting or grieving or suffering? How do we find the balance, if there is one, between these tensions?
These verses above have the simple answer for us: Let the distress bring us to God! That might just simply mean going into a quiet room of your house in the middle of the day, flopping down on the bed or couch and sighing a big breath, and letting yourself rest in His presence. No words are necessary. He knows your heart. Flopping down, breathing, resting, being in His presence and then getting back up and on with your day. Simple.
Or choosing intentional music that draws you toward God while you're driving home from work or cooking dinner or just before you go to bed. Or packing a journal in your bag so when you're spending long days with relatives over the holidays, you can excuse yourself into another room and write out some of your thoughts in a 'prayer' like letter to God and take that time to rest with God. Choose ANYTHING that turns your heart away from worry and self-managing toward the Presence of God.
And as the verses also say, these are the results of turning to God . . . "You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart." Endless researching google doesn't promise this, thinking through every scenario doesn't promise this, trying to figure out best case scenarios doesn't promise this at all.
As these next few weeks become busy and full with events and people and whatever emotional joy or stress these weeks bring, let's be people who go to God. Let's rely on Him in physical and tangible ways, find ways to turn ourselves toward him and let His Presence and love sustain us and make us more alive and ready to love and be loved!!