As I’ve been talking to groups and traveling around a bit to promote Mom Seeks God, I’ve been struck by the hunger I’m seeing for spiritual practice, for connection with God. Yet at the same time, I sense that for many the idea of meeting God through spiritual practices feels close to impossible.
We want to practice them, but we’re already so busy. How can we do even more stuff? We long for God, yet we are all so tired and feel overwhelmed, especially moms.
One of the most interesting things I learned during my year of seeking to meet God through the spiritual disciplines was how much better I did with the disciplines that required taking things off my list, rather than adding more.
For example, when I tried to add extra prayer times or to read through five books of the Bible, I really struggled. I felt even more guilty than I had before. But when I focuses on practices that required doing less–silence, simplicity, fasting–I was continually struck by how much more peaceful and calm I felt. How much more I enjoyed my days and felt more connected not only with God but with my family.
As important as these practices of prayer and Bible study are, I realized that my ideas about how to implement them into my life were leading to feelings of frustration and failure. I was starting to view these ways of meeting God as tasks to be checked off my to-do list, and that was really not the point. Not only was my to-do list plenty long already, meeting God in daily life was meant to be a source of strength and joy, not an exhausting labor that God forces us into.
This was a problem with my life overall, with my M.O. of piling on things to do and expectations to meet. Doing more, adding more had seemed like the obvious way to meet God through the spiritual disciplines.
But for this stage of my life, anyway, I felt called to do less.
Here are some of the things I tried to do less of during my year focusing on these disciplines–watch TV, turn on the radio or music playlist, spend money, multi-task. Each time, I dreaded the change, thinking that I was giving up something I really enjoyed. And each time, I was surprised anew at how much I enjoyed the space that opened up in my life–space to listen to God, to talk to my husband, to focus on playing with my son, even space to get extra sleep.
You would think that when life became busy and stressful, I would react by wanting to take things off my list, but I realized my inclination was exactly the opposite. I’m so tired and it’s been a hard day, so I’m going to unwind by watching this TV show even though it’s going to be a constant struggle to even stay awake for it. Or, I’ve got so much to do so I’m going to try to do it all at the same time, even though what that will really mean is that I will do a little bit of everything and probably not finish anything.
When I think about them this way, these inclinations of mine don’t make any sense. They certainly don’t help me to feel less stressed or tired. So I’m resolving to learn new patterns. When life feels overwhelming, to try doing less. Try doing one thing at a time. Try going to bed earlier, even if it feels like I’m missing out on something I would otherwise enjoy. Try saying no to some of the things that I usually say yes to, so that I can have more time for God.
More God, less of that other stuff.