It all started with index cards. My daughter walked into my room at 9:00 p.m. and said she had to have index cards for school the next day. I can’t describe what happened next any other way than this: I lost my mind. I berated her for 20 minutes for her lack of responsibility by waiting this late at night to ask. I made sure she understood how this request was affecting my life, my plans, my deadlines. Clearly, this request was outrageous and life-disrupting. For the first time I can remember, my child ran from me in tears. In the time it took me to drive my daughter to tears, I could have driven to at least five different locations to get the item she needed and it would have cost me about $1.50.
This wasn’t about index cards. This was about the pace of my life being out of control.
I’d forgotten that it was up to me to decide what kind of rhythm I wanted for my family. I had made a decision somewhere along the way to live at an exhausting, time-consuming, attitude-wrecking, family-changing pace. I was saying “yes” to everything because I believed that was expected of me and somehow convinced myself that it was good for us. It was the urgent overtaking the important every single day.
I needed some balance in my life. I wanted things to be even, steady and to work easily within my plan. But it was less about needing balance and more about needing a healthy rhythm. I had allowed unhealthy habits to take over when it came to money, activities and even my own self-care. And by letting others dictate my time, everything became urgent and out of control. The rhythm I was living in wasn’t mine anymore, it was actually everyone else’s. I’d been doing it for so long that it wasn’t going to be easy to change, but I knew that it would be so much harder not to. I knew where I needed to start. I needed time to think and pray. I needed to talk to God about how he had created me and the decisions I’d been making in my family life, work environment and even in ministry. I needed wise counsel from someone who knew me well. During this time, a friend pointed me to Galatians 5:22-25:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (ESV)
I was out of step. It was pretty clear from those verses what kind of rhythm God wanted for me. The desire to excel, be better and to grow is not always a bad thing, but it becomes harmful when we get caught up in gauging ourselves by some ridiculous standard set by Pinterest or Instagram, or comparison that another’s rhythm is better than our own.
The pressure to live my life like it was a competitive sport didn’t come from God. In The Message, Galatians 5:16 reads: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. That is the rhythm I want!
Every day there are dozens of meaningful opportunities laid out before you – opportunities in your home, community, church, school, work. Saying “yes” to all of them usually means forcing your family rhythm to fit into them. Maybe now is a good time to shift your thinking and talk to God about your personal and family rhythms. Listen closely; then take brave steps to live in it.
Making this shift creates white space. It gives you time to take the scenic route to work, pursue the new idea or new opportunity that presents itself or space to sit with someone who needs to chat. It gives you permission to turn buying index cards at 9:00 p.m. into an adventure instead of an attitude adjustment. Most importantly, it gives direction and purpose to your steps. It just may bring you freedom to decide what the important things are for you and your family today, tomorrow and the days to follow.
You’ll see that it’s hardly ever about the index cards.
Originally published in Connections Magazine, Spring 2017