It’s the first month of a new year and a new decade, and our newsfeeds are overflowing with suggestions and advice for making resolutions, setting goals, and chasing dreams. It’s enough to make even the most motivated go-getters among us feel guilty. Now, I don’t have anything against goals and dreams. They’re an important and necessary part of life. But here’s what tends to happen. As our culture overemphasizes the importance of doing, we wind up neglecting the necessity of simply being. And when we don’t spend enough time simply being, our lives can become seriously imbalanced. Picture an old-fashioned balance scale where one side is more heavily weighted than the other, or a pile of blocks or rocks that is about to topple over. When our lives are out of balance like that, we wind up exhausted, depleted, and discouraged.
Have you ever been there? I sure have. And if our busyness is compounded by difficult circumstances such as health challenges, family issues, work demands, or loss, it can be overwhelming. I’ve learned that exhaustion, depletion, and discouragement are sure signs that things have become more than a little imbalanced and I need to “adjust the scales," giving more time and attention not only to my physical condition but also to my interior life and connection with God.
Attending to our interior life is essential to our health and wholeness, and it includes paying attention to our motivations for busyness. Sometimes the culprit is the feeling that we have to measure up—whether it’s for others, ourselves, or even God. As I’ve walked with others on their journeys, many have told me that they believe they are displeasing God if they’re not continually doing and accomplishing things or improving themselves.
Admittedly, letting go of striving is not easy in our performance-based culture, especially if we’re pleasers by nature or we have a loud inner critic; but it’s necessary if we are to find more balance and peace. For you this might require learning to recognize people-pleasing habits or co-dependency, healing your image of God, practicing healthy boundaries, or embracing how God sees you. It might mean breaking free of the mindset that you have to perform for God and learning to receive from God, which is what produces the fruit of God’s love in and through us. If we are to serve effectively in this world, we must take regular pauses to attend to our bodies, souls, and spirits. We must learn to rest in God.
Resting in God doesn’t come naturally to most of us. That’s why it’s helpful to have others in our lives (such as spiritual companions or mentors) who know the way and can guide us toward rhythms that enable us to slow our pace and turn down the noise of life. Three practices that are invaluable on this interior journey with God are solitude, stillness, and silence.
If we’re honest, many of us run from anything that requires us to be alone, still, or silent. We may try it once and feel uncomfortable, and then we’re hesitant to try it again. We need to remember that they are called spiritual practices because they take practice; and pushing through our resistance leads to great benefits. Others of us are afraid to give ourselves permission to slow down and be still. In our doing-obsessed culture, those of us who can’t or won’t keep up often feel less than and left out. We feel guilty when we have seasons of inactivity and rest. Yet by divine design, everything God has created participates in the cyclical nature we witness in the seasons. There can’t be a spring without a winter (something I remind myself often during the dreary days of January). Just as the dormancy of winter is necessary for the new birth of spring, so every living thing God has created needs cycles of activity and rest—and we are no exception.
Solitude, stillness, and silence make space for us to experience and rest in God. Though it may seem counterintuitive, pausing from our busyness to attend to our inner life actually teaches us to be even more present in the midst of the activity of life. I love these words of Eckhart Tolle: “To be aware of little, quiet things, you need to be quiet inside.”* Learning to be quiet inside helps us to become aware of the many beautiful gifts that each day brings—gifts we tend to overlook when we are focused on doing and striving.
Here’s an encouraging word for all of us. Although we need solitude, stillness, and silence, we don’t necessarily have to practice all three postures at once. In fact, Christopher Heuertz explains that each of us benefits from one posture more than the others, depending on our particular personality bent or type. (To learn more about that, check out his book The Sacred Enneagram.) I find this fascinating—and freeing. Who says resting in God has to be boring? Sometimes it might look like contemplative prayer and meditation, journaling, or reading and praying the scriptures; but other times it might mean going for a walk, playing or listening to music, painting or creating, or so many other things—even taking a nap. (Honestly, sometimes a nap is the most spiritually replenishing thing we can do!) I encourage you to find the times, places, and ways you are most drawn to resting in God. The idea is to attune your heart to God, let go of all striving, and simply receive His love.
The start of this new year and decade seems like a good time to make adjustments and seek more balance. Let’s give ourselves permission to be less consumed with doing and more intentional about simply being, enjoying God’s presence and realizing that we are loved just as we are. And whenever we realize that things are out of whack again, as they inevitably will be, let’s give ourselves grace and simply reset once more. Seeking balance is an ongoing process, and perfection is never the objective—because let’s be real, no one’s life is perfectly balanced. Not even if it looks that way on social media. As you seek more balance in 2020, may you be kind to yourself, breathe, and be.
If you think you'd benefit from a companion or guide on your journey to seek more balance this year, I invite you to contact me and/or schedule a free consultation to explore the possibilities together.
*Eckhart Tolle, Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2011).
Hi, I'm Sally!
I'm passionate about connecting with God and connecting with people, offering spiritual encouragement and companionship. I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you as we walk with God together.