When’s the last time you just took the time to breathe?
The type of breathing that’s deep and full… fulfilling even?
I thought I did it regularly. In fact, after the whirlwind that is a day spent working full time from home with five kids, there are many nights I plop down on the couch with a loud sigh, a “whoosh” of sorts… I am willing to bet you know exactly what I mean. For some time, I thought this was as close to “peaceful” as I could get. A quick minute of quiet before sleeping and starting it all over again.
But the other day, sitting outside with a book on the back porch after a morning of hard thoughts and deep prayer, something felt different. I took a deep breath without the need to think about what was coming up around the corner. It was restorative. It was peaceful. It was beautiful.
I realized in that moment, that what I had been calling “restorative” was really just a break between intervals (for runner friends, you know exactly what I mean). In the going and going and going of every day living, I wasn’t able to find true rest. I was cutting myself short and I didn’t even realize it.
Something Was Missing
Those nights where I would (and still do) plop down on the couch? They feel like a break between intervals because that’s exactly what they are.
I’m running full speed ahead each day (just like you), only to try to reset at night and start again first thing in the morning. As an introvert who values a neat and tidy, predictable schedule, this has led to some less-than-graceful outcomes (more yelling than I’d like… and a whole lot less patience). The lifestyle changes that have come about during the pandemic have heightened the effects.
Each day feels just as unsteady – if not more unsteady – than the one before it.
Feel it? I bet you do.
Which brings me back to that back porch moment of actual peace that felt so different from what I had considered before.
While night times are “quiet,” in my home, they aren’t always peaceful; and that’s because I’m holding onto it all.
I’m planning the schedule for the next day.
I’m running through the upcoming appointments, and appointments that I need to schedule.
I’m thinking about what needs to go in the mail, and what bills need paid.
I’m trying to remember which child wants to pack a lunch the next day.
I’m wondering if I have the ingredients for the next meal.
I’m thinking through deadlines at work.
And under it all: I’m worried. Not about anything specific, but that I’ll miss something. Because somehow, these thoughts of mine provide an illusion of control while – at the same time – reminding me that I don’t actually have any… that no matter what I do, and how well I plan, and how many lists I make, I’m sure to miss something that will have one consequence or another (no matter how small in the big scheme of things that consequence might be).
I’m dwelling on the wrong things, and holding on to them as fiercely and tightly as I can.
Worse: I’m using my energy to focus on them, instead of on the real reason for it all.
Rewiring to Refresh
We’re not meant to be in control.
Sure, we have some earthly authority. We have responsibilities to steward well the things we’re meant to steward: our children. Our homes. Our job duties. Our finances.
But, when we have time to think, when we have time to breathe, they aren’t supposed to keep our focus. We’ve got it wrong.
Instead: we’re supposed to look up.
You see, we were created for more than the things that consume our thoughts and our energy, the things we worry about around the clock. We were created to lean on, trust, and follow our creator. When we do this, we’re promised rest.
In Matthew 33, verses 28 to 30, we’re told:
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
When we wake in the morning, when we are in the middle of the “hard” of every day battles and living, and when we fall on the couch at the end of those days, when we hold onto our plans and struggles, we’re coming back to ourselves.
It makes sense: we’re surrounded by messages that tell us to look inward for focus and strength, that promise that if we just dig a little deeper, we can accomplish whatever it is we have our hearts set on. But, when we do this – when we fall into this pattern – we’re not running toward our Lord. Which means we’ll never find the rest that’s promised in those verses, the refreshing, soul-lightening rest that we are promised.
We Must Learn to Surrender
That day on the porch that I mentioned a little earlier, my soul felt like it could breathe easier, and the reason for that is prior to it, I had given myself back to God, for the up-teenth time.
I’d let the mess left behind by five kids go for just a minute and I walked away. I looked up instead of screaming out. I handed the mess I felt like I’d made over to him, feeling complete defeat. And yet – what felt like my lowest point, became a minute to really breathe. Worries were replaced with trust because I waved a white flag of surrender.
The thing is: this can’t be a one-time thing and it doesn’t have to be when we’re at our lowest.
Doing it Once. Then, Repeat.
While that moment on the porch felt wonderful and helped propel me through the afternoon, it wasn’t a one-time thing because it wasn’t meant to be.
God doesn’t tell us to say a single prayer, then promise an easy downhill race going forward.
His command to come to him to find rest is meant to be something that’s a habit, something we do time and time again. Every time we resort to our own worries and scold ourselves for our own shortcomings, we’re not only doing ourselves a disservice (hello rest for our weary souls!), we’re also demonstrating a lack of trust in the one big enough to create entire galaxies who chose to create us too.
What would happen if every time we felt daily concerns and worries cropping up, we gave them to the Lord in prayer… in our cars, at our desks, standing by the stove, on a walk, in the middle of an argument? I’m willing to bet that by building this into our stress response, we’d be better equipped to manage the situations we face.
We Don’t Have to Be Low to Look Up
While when the picture of “crying out to the Lord” often conjures images of distress and anxiety, those situations don’t have to be the only times we surrender.
What if we woke up each morning and asked the Lord to direct our paths, before we even knew what was in front of us?
I can’t promise smooth sailing from here on out – God himself does not promise this – but, the Bible tells us that when we commit our prayers to the Lord, he will direct our paths… that he’ll give us rest.
I don’t know about you, but this is a promise I’m holding on to, and one I want to get better at acting upon. If relief can be found through surrender, why do we hold onto things we were never meant to control? Why do we put the pressure on ourselves? This is not a criticism, but a genuine question that I don’t have the answer to, other than it’s the way we were programmed, maybe even an effect of the cultures in which we immerse ourselves.
If we took the time to give our concerns to the Lord, to truly run to and cling to him, instead of reminding ourselves of all the ways we don’t measure up and stressing out over what’s up ahead, maybe our couches would require a little less breathless plopping. Maybe our hearts would be a little lighter.
Imagine this on a wide scale, if we’d encourage those around us to do the same.
There’s a sweet relief in surrender that is ours for the taking. Are you willing to run to the Lord? Are you willing to give up control?