In Time-Out

Few of us have slow-paced, uneventful lives. When was the last time you heard this as part of a conversation: “Yep, the wife and I just can’t find enough to do. Really wish we could fill those huge chunks of free time in our schedule.”

I’ve been spinning in a whirlwind of activity for quite a while. Good activity, for sure. But increasing demands have frothed to a frenetic pace. Usually this isn’t a big deal. I’m a high energy guy with a “pull-up the bootstraps” mentality. Give me a challenge and I’ll exceed your expectations. But, despite my best rough-riding Teddy Roosevelt impersonation (minus the moustache), I’m seeing the end of my rope dangling just off my fingertips.

When my rope’s end is visible, it’s time for rest. Katrina is good at sending me to “time out.” Lately she’s been rather persistent. I appreciate her concern. Even Teddy had to be told to take a break. So, at the close of a weekend that allowed a few moments of rest, I’m pondering the conditions that created my whirlwind.

This quote from G.K. Chesterton has been part of my reflecting: “There would be less bustle if there were more activity, if people were simply walking about. Our world would be more silent if it were more strenuous.” (Orthodoxy, p.121). Chesterton creates a great tension. He juxtaposes what seems similar: bustle and activity. I find the tension provoking and disruptive. Is my busyness fruitless bustle or productive activity? Am I pouring energy into efforts that float away like idle chatter, or do I work with a quiet diligence on worthy endeavors? In the tension, Chesterton hints at motivation and mission. Why do I do what I do? What’s my purpose – my mission – as I fill my planner, answer email, put miles on the car and social network? Critical questions to ponder as I sit in time out.

Sitting in my thinking chair, God invites me (again) to sit quietly with Him. I re-discovered His invitation through the story of His delivering the nation of Israel from Egypt. That deliverance was certainly filled with much bustle and busyness and chaos. There was no time for resting as the doors of deliverance blew wide open. It’s difficult to imagine the craziness. Perhaps a million people with everything they owned, plus animals and plunder, belching-out into the desert. An exciting yet terrifying start to a divine adventure. Adventure that quickly found them pinned against the Red Sea facing capture or extermination. In the midst of this fearful chaos Moses, their leader, says this: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14). Caught in a whirlwind of fear and confusion, God says to His people (and us), “Stop the worry. The spinning. The chatter. The arguing. The grasping. The speculation. I’ve got your back, just be still!”

Good words for me as I pause from my spinning. It’s easy to play the “busy” victim card or wear “busy” like a Boy Scout merit badge. I often do. So, here are some questions I’m working through: Has my activity become hyper instead of holy? Do I need to say “no” to some good things and save my “yes” for greater things – things that align better with God’s desires for me and my family? That type of alignment will produce a healthy busyness that makes room for times of restful refreshment.

God, help me be still. Close my mouth, calm my heart and still the whirlwind. Direct my activities. I want my efforts to be gloriously strenuous for the fame of Your name.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

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