“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form,
perhaps the most common form,
of its innate violence.
To allow oneself to be carried away
by a multitude of conflicting concerns,
to surrender to too many projects,
to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence . . .”
Perhaps it is only as we get older and are faced with the necessity of slowing down occasionally that we truly, finally understand this concept. Or perhaps it is just that certain personalities comprehend this truth all along, and others seem to be forever searching for that next "adrenaline rush" of activity, excitement, and adventure. Whatever the reason, it is such a common place in which we find ourselves: too busy, too stressed, too anxious, and far too weighed down with all of the responsibilities in our lives.
Of course, many of those responsibilities cannot be avoided, and should not be avoided. We can't just ignore our children for the sake of some peace and tranquility on a mountaintop somewhere. We can't simply pretend that the bills don't exist while we meditate in a quiet corner. We can't remove all of the noise and activity that is part of modern life . . . . but we can find ways to seek a place of rest and solitude in the midst of our responsibilities. And the other thing that I have discovered over the years is that I can also say "no" to some of the requests for my time and attention.
For many years it seemed that if I didn't "do" the task at hand, whether in our home, our church, or our community, then it was just not going to happen. Because of that incorrect assumption on my part, I would frequently take on way too many responsibilities! Because I was capable of running the parent group at school, and the summer reading program at the local library, and the arts committee in Our Town, I assumed that meant that I was supposed to do it . . . . all. So I tried. And, of course, eventually I failed, because I was so overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities of trying to do everything that everyone expected of me.
Eventually I realized that I am just not that important in the Big Picture! If it is in God's plan for something to happen, then it is going to happen, whether I am the one doing it or not. That was a difficult lesson to learn, and I frequently still feel the tug on my heart to do more than I should. That is why the truth of this quote is so significant - because there is an inherent, innate "violence" that we allow into our lives when we strive so desperately to do it all.
This is so difficult to accept when we are young, enthusiastic, and energetic, and we truly believe that we CAN do it all. At that time in our lives it never occurs to us that we will not always have that same level of youth, enthusiasm, or energy, and we will eventually have to allow others the privilege of taking on some of the responsibilities that we so sincerely believed we alone could handle. When you throw into the mix of life responsibilities, all that it takes to raise children and care for all the needs of a family, it is so easy to become burdened down with it all until the "violence" that invades our soul turns to resentment and exhaustion.
God's Word emphasizes the importance of resting in Him and trusting His plans: "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, . . . . refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil." Psalm 37:7-8 Perhaps it is just part of our modern-day culture that we, as women, have been convinced that we are responsible to "fix" everything and everyone in our lives. That is a dangerous belief upon which to build our lives. Partly it is dangerous because it will eventually destroy us, but it is also dangerous because it is God alone who is in the business of "fixing" broken hearts, homes, and lives.
As we truly strive to be the "virtuous women" that we believe God expects of us, we forget what is really required of us, first and foremost. Instead of the striving, the frantic activity, and the frustration and exhaustion of over-commitment, God requires our hearts. The rest will fall into place, without the "violence" in our souls of "a multitude of conflicting concerns," if we obey that one seemingly simple requirement.
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6 We will always have willing hearts to do what God asks us to do . . . . but how long will it take for us to remember that it is not our job to do it ALL, and before we do ANY of the responsibilities that are before us, we must seek His face in the quietness of our souls. In that moment, we will be carried away by His Grace.
The giggling children will just have to go play somewhere else for a few minutes! Crying babies make it difficult, I know, but somehow we have to find the time, the quiet, and the peaceful place where we can BE all that God intends for us to be, and then we will have His grace and strength to DO the rest.
Have a great Tuesday and try to find a way to slow down and even say "no" once in a while! If you would like to participate in this week's "In Other Words" meme, please visit Emily at Imperfect Prose and leave a link to your blog post. You can also find links to the other participants so you can take a minute and visit them!