Floating horizontal and weightless on the surface of the water, I barely blinked as clouds above me crept their way across the sky. There was no sound, just the muted ebb of water in my ears. My arms worked themselves back and forth, gently raising my head with each stroke. I wondered if I could rest like that forever in this personal lagoon, where dreams took root and conversations with God were as familiar as breathing. Some days there wouldn't be a single boat on the lake. Those were my favorite - not a ripple in sight to disturb the vivid reflections of a changing sky.
That was my childhood, at least in the summertime. Days were filled with endless opportunities for introspection and a quiet working with the hands. Nights were for campfires and conversations under the stars. For the most part, people were kind - keeping to themselves and helping one another whenever needed.
I saw God at work all the time - in the thoughtfully planned dinners and the changing of a flat tire. I saw it when my grandparents read their Bibles together at breakfast, alternating sips of coffee with one flip of a delicate page at time. I saw Him in every bruised and bandaged knee. Every broken heart. In every t-shirt and bed sheet swaying in the breeze to dry. I saw His grace in peoples' resolve to provide, even when there wasn't understanding or the words to communicate it.
I look at how different my adult life is now and sense that, although my own parents and their friends were busy back then, the "hustle" wasn't quite the same. The expectations weren't quite as fierce. Our elders understood something that we've lost in the constant motion of today's world and it was this:
The most influential gift we have to offer anybody is quite simply our time and attention. God in us. Nothing more.
It's a humbling and sobering lesson, because this thing we call Christianity has turned into a hustle in America. Believers are networked, podcasted, social media'd, published, and therefore, prone to comparison. Reach more people. Faster. Work longer hours. Get big names. Produce. Serve. Promote. Expand. Organize. Mobilize. Oh, and make it exciting.
I both love our new opportunities to voice God-encouragement all over the world, and lament the machine it becomes if we're not careful, because:
Our faith, our very assurance about things unseen, has become something measurable - decisions weighed by numbers and success determined by statistics.
It certainly isn't just a church issue, more likely, the culture invaded the body without our notice. The go, go, go mentality pervades all facets of our lives. Moms are pressured to go back to work as soon as possible after giving birth for fear of losing their position or influence in the workplace. Employees everywhere are expected to produce more with less money. We work sick, function despite our exhaustion, and think that a brief vacation is going to cure years of over-production.
In research conducted for the Barna FRAME, Wonder Woman, by Kate Harris, 72% of women feel stressed out, 58% are tired, and 48% say they are overcommitted. The percentages are even higher among moms with kids at home. Nearly nine in ten women (88%) say they want to improve in at least one area of life—and what is the area they cite the most, over work, family and friends? Church.
More specifically, although only 5% of women selected church or religious activities as their top time commitment, this is the area of life that most women want to improve in (22%), indicating that many women find their desires for church or religious engagement to be at odds with the constraints of their everyday realities.*
I find myself in these percentages of women looking to make a change. How about you? A humble acknowledgement:
If you want to stop, it's OK. I do too.
It's OK to stop worrying about what everybody thinks, to rock your new baby and leave a couple of dishes in the sink.
It's OK if you bypass the promotion so that you can make it to your kids' soccer games.
It's OK if your main goal for the day is to sit with the woman across the street who just lost her husband.
It's OK to admit that you want to downsize or declutter responsibilities.
It's OK to steal away with your husband and ask for help with the kids.
Float. Sing. Bask in the warm sunlight, if only for a little while. Return to the rhythms of life that are in tune with God and His plans for your time. The years won't wait for us remember the things that are most important. The time is now.
With you and for you,
*Excerpt, Barna Group, 2015
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.