Here’s the reality: For far too long, I loaded way too many things on my plate. I became overwhelmed and paralyzed. Unable to finish what I started. I let people down. My integrity suffered. I felt like a failure, always assuming that women who are far better than I could have most likely conquered these tasks with ease — and time to spare. I resolved to work harder. Be more organized. Become more efficient.
And I started the cycle all over again.
This fall, I had a health crisis that brought me to my knees. Literally. For nearly two weeks, I could do nothing but lie there, alternating between sleep and reruns of Chopped and Dr. Phil.
This happened to occur during an incredibly busy season for me and just weeks before a big conference I was organizing.
I had no choice but to pare down my to-do list. I was forced to ask for help — a lot (not my thing). And I had to let go of control and trust that God would make Himself known and powerful and sufficient in my weakness. Honestly, it wasn’t even a struggle. Because it wasn’t a choice. My body was not going to cooperate. Period. Imagine trying to drive a car with a flat tire. That was about all the momentum I was going to achieve on my own power.
And. God. showed. up. Beyond my wildest dreams. He brought people — some I didn’t even know — from out of the woodwork to help me with all the needed preparations. Absolutely no one noticed all those “had-to-get-done” details that I was forced to let go of. And the Holy Spirit showed up on the day of the event in a way I can’t explain. Women’s lives were changed. I have not felt His presence in a room so powerfully ever — before or since.
Something changed in me that day. For perhaps the first time, I truly understood the power of doing nothing. It is so counter-intuitive. We’re constantly bombarded with emails and webinars about how to achieve more productivity, better efficiency and how to get more done in less time.
But sometimes we are most productive when we … rest. Truly rest. I’m not talking about taking a nap — although sometimes we desperately need that. But I’m referring to more than physical rest. I’m talking about mental rest.
The rest that allows our busy, cluttered minds to wind down and unburden themselves.
The rest that allows us to clear our tired brains of obligation, Facebook statuses and all the other mind chaos that accumulates during an average day.
The rest that gets us quiet enough to hear the Holy Spirit speak. Because He doesn’t shout. He whispers.
So how do we “do nothing”?
It’s. not. easy. But rest doesn’t have to be two weeks vacation in Hawaii (although don’t turn that down if you can get it.) No, rest can be turning off your computer on Sundays. Not checking Facebook. Keeping media time to a minimum.
It can mean simply being quiet for 10-15 minutes after spending time with God in the morning just to make room to hear His voice.
It might be relaxing after dinner instead of catching up on all the urgent tasks that will be there tomorrow — acknowledging that maybe our fast-growing teenager or a special opportunity to connect with our husband won’t.
What do we gain by pulling back?
It allows God to show up and show off. I think back to my experience last fall over and over again. The lesson I learned? All outcomes and results do not depend on me. Do I need to work hard and be responsible? Sure. But I know a God who created the entire universe in seven days. And He invites me to tap into His wisdom and power. When I do, I can rest. He may not always act like I expect, but He will always meet my needs.
We realize our worth is not in what we do. During that period of bed rest, God didn’t heal me physically (at least not completely), but He began the process of healing my heart. For perhaps the first time, I truly, truly internalized God loved me and cared for me even when I was capable of doing absolutely nothing for Him. When our worth is not in what we do, but Whose we are, we experience peace. Our hamster-on-a-wheel pace can slow down without threatening our significance.
We gain new imagination and creativity. Old habits die hard, friend. Recently, I looked at my April to-do list and it was staggering. Besides my job and family responsibilities, I was finishing my life coaching certification, blogging, writing a book and had three speaking engagements. I was trying to do it all. That familiar overwhelmed feeling came rising to the surface.
I felt the Holy Spirit remind me again, “Lay it down.” I knew exactly what He meant. I cleared everything from my plate that was not an absolute necessity. I focused on my part-time job, taking care of my and my son’s health and preparing for my speaking engagements.
Last week, I returned to my book, blogging and life coaching classwork. I can’t begin to tell you the bursts of renewed creativity and inspiration that I’ve been given! Giving myself permission to “do nothing” in those areas gave my mind room to create and think outside of the box when I returned. Before, I felt pressured and stressed and my poor head was too cluttered to make sense of anything.
For perhaps the first time, I truly, truly internalized God loved me and cared for me even when I was capable of doing absolutely nothing for Him.
We gain clarity. Clarity, my friend, makes decisions so much easier. When we get overwhelmed and stressed, we can’t think clearly. We become paralyzed. Giving ourselves some distance and rest gives us much needed perspective. We sense God’s leading. Suddenly the dilemmas that seemed so confusing become startlingly clear. Priorities come into clear focus. Choices flow out of that.
Our to-do list will never end. It will always be longer and more demanding than our abilities. Sometimes the best thing we can do is periodically lay it aside and rest in the power of doing nothing.