During the latter part of 2020 and now into the start of 2021 I have been getting my life in order. Oh, in many ways it was not out of order. So, let’s say I have been spending time setting new priorities and adding more balance into a very active and busy life. I have been thinking through what I do and why I do it. Are there more important things I could be investing my time in? Are there things that once were great but are now no longer beneficial or necessary? What needs to change to bring life – both in the inner life as well as the regular daily routines of life – back into balance?
Life out there in the mad world remains what it is, spinning into greater frenzy. As a result I believe I need a series of gentle reminders – signs, symptoms, barometers – that let me know if I am living a sane life, giving my time where God would have me invest my life, taking the time to be healed, be filled, be refreshed, be renewed. This world we live in demands a life saturated with God, and this world is the perfect storm to prevent our souls from having it. We must shepherd our own heart and soul with kindness and compassion so that the springs of life may flow freely, up through the fountain of our being.
Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (ESV)
“So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are.
Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” (TPT)
“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” (MSG)
I know I’ve been sucked back into the madness when I flinch at a request for any kind of help: the text of a friend asking for my time, the email seeking some counsel. Or when I don’t even want to look at emails, because I know there are demands waiting for me there. The flinch, wince, long hesitation, unhappy sigh; the avoidance, the inability to enter in — these are symptoms that I am running on fumes again.
Our capacity for relationship is a wonderful gauge. We are created in the image of a profoundly relational God, created for relationship. Am I available for relationship? Not with everyone all the time of course — I’m not meaning the entire social network with no boundaries whatsoever, not 24/7 access. I’m talking about the people in my life: loved ones, colleagues, neighbours out walking their dogs. If I’ve lost the capacity for, and the enjoyment of relationships, I know that things are deeply off in my soul.
Sugar and caffeine are always warning signs. Have I moved from enjoying them to needing them, relying on them to get me through the rest of my day? What about a simple pause? If I decide to take a break for a few minutes do I feel guilty and on edge, concerned that something important may not get the attention I think it deserves? Or if someone comes in and takes a few minutes out of my day unexpectedly, do I feel irritated and hassled? Do I feel like my day has been disrupted?
But there are positive barometers, too, wonderful things; these are so much better to watch for. Have I spent time walking my dog and enjoying the outdoors with him? Was I able to pay attention to what my wife was saying this morning? Am I making room for the sunrises and sunsets and the act of simply taking time to love God? Positive signs and reminders are better for us to watch for, because these slip away before you begin to really sink in the mire. If I have reached the point that I don’t want to play with my grandchildren, I’m not well. But way before that happens, I can tell how I’m doing if I’m neglecting the simple practices that bring me healing and inner peace … like daily quiet time, maintaining some personal time and space, and even a simply walk to reconnect with my heart and soul.
The Harvard Business Review published a list of “The Daily Routines of Geniuses.” The author compared the schedules and lifestyles of “161 painters, writers, and composers, as well as philosophers, scientists, and other exceptional thinkers” and discovered they all shared some things in common:
- A workspace with minimal distractions
- A daily walk
- A clear dividing line between important work and busywork
- Limited social lives
I know it sounds idyllic — something from a bygone age or era. Maybe. You can’t get out for a walk? You can’t cut back your social life, which in this culture means cutting down your social media and texting? Both are very doable. I like the idea of making your home or apartment a place that feels restorative to your soul. You want your “space,” whatever it is, to be your sanctuary and haven … a place where you can find yourself and get back in touch with the you that is deep inside. A place where your soul feels good to be in.
It is the start of another year – a year where we are all experiencing a faster and faster pace of life. Maybe at the start of the year – like right now – we need to take a good look at what we are doing and make some changes that will allow us the regain and reclaim our life.