The First Step…
I admit my life can be a little crazy. It includes 3 young kids, coaching two soccer teams, my wife and I leading two separate groups, each having full time jobs, meetings, etc., etc. I console myself with the fact that this craziness will only last a season- although that season will continue for another 15 years! As my wife and I compare weekly schedules, I’ll look towards our 2 year old and joke, ‘Well, the good news is there will soon be one more kid’s activities to add into the mix!”
I’ve recently read two books talking about the importance of taking care of ourselves. The books are Soul Keeping by John Ortberg and The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero. They’re amazing and I love and desperately need their message to make space for soul health in my life. In order to bring balance and health to our lives, we need to slow down more, say no more, play more, and be quiet more. I totally agree!
But, there’s a problem. I’m not sure some of these things are possible for me right now (at least for the next 15 years). I love coaching soccer and my kids love to play! Serving in church and connecting in groups is essential to our spiritual health as a family. My wife and I constantly consider what we can say no to, and new ways to make space.
So, I was getting down on myself for not living the life these author’s encouraged until a few weeks ago when one author commented how he had struggled with these things for 25 years! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he started figuring them out around the time his children were probably grown. I’ve developed this hypothesis that most of the books encouraging spiritual quiet are written by people without small children at home. This is not a knock on them, it’s just a healthy acknowledgment of what’s realistic in their lives compared to what’s realistic in mine.
I am applying as much from these books as possible, but it’s difficult. There’s not much quiet in our lives. If someone wrote a book on wrestling as a spiritual act of worship, my boys and I would be saints! But, I can’t do it all. So I tried to nail down 3 things I think I can do.
1. Accept Soul Responsibility
You are not a victim to your life and circumstance. John Ortberg said, “I and no one else am responsible for the condition of my soul.” I can’t blame my wife, kids, job, house, or anything in my life for the state of my soul. I, alone am it’s keeper. No, I will not be able to spend 2 hours a day quietly praying, but that is not an excuse to give up. Before I begin justifying the craziness I’ll continue to experience over the next decade, I must be willing to war for the health of my soul. Does your life presently reflect your priorities? Is there anything you need to say no to or stop doing? How are you beating back the busyness trying to overtake you?
2. Eliminate Hurry
So often, everything in my life is about hurry. Hurry and pick up the kids from daycare. Then have them hurry and get in the car. Hurry and get home and get inside. Hurry and change for soccer. Hurry and eat. Hurry and let’s go. Hurry at soccer. Hurry and get home. Hurry and take a shower. Hurry and get your pajamas on. Hurry and go to bed.
Theologian Dallas Willard said, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” (Soul Keeping, pg. 20) We may not be able to change how busy we are, but we can change the attitude in which we accomplish our daily goals. Yes, we may have practice, but take a deep breath and try to enjoy all your moments from the time you leave work until get home later that night. These are moments to love and listen to your children. Can we be fully present with them as we drive? We may not have time to find God while sitting by some river, so let’s start trying to find God on the way to soccer practice!
3. Give yourself grace
In wanting to be closer to God, I could easily spend my time wishing for simple days long gone. Or, I could look forward to one day when it’ll just be my wife and I, and we could spend quality time together, and with God. But, neither of those are helpful. Instead, I need to accept that busyness will be a consistent companion along the course of my life. It’s neither good nor bad- it just is. You may only have 10-15 quiet moments each morning before having to help someone get dressed, go to the bathroom, or break up a fight. The clock might hit 9 each night as you melt into your couch, exhausted but proud you made it through another day. That’s life and that’s ok. You’re not bad and your life isn’t necessarily broken- it’s just busy. Give yourself some grace!
Every now and again I’ll watch my sweet two year old waddle after his older brothers and think to myself, “These days will soon be gone and when they are I’ll miss them.” Yes, we need to fight for balance and health in our life. But, on the other hand, when you have small children at home- life is just plain busy and that’s ok. Take a deep breath, and let’s try to enjoy each crazy moment. These may be some of the best moments of our life.