If there’s one thing my newly minted forty-year old self has taught me it’s that I don’t bounce back the way I used to.
As some of you know, I was a high school English teacher and then a non-profit outreach ministry director before I became a writer and speaker. And as I was saying to a friend the other night, I knew it was time to leave ministry when a week at camp yielded a week of recovery on the couch afterwards.
For a long time, I’d push myself full-steam ahead – after all, at the end of the day, if I didn’t do my job, who would? (Answer: No one. Answer: And that’s okay). Just as I didn’t want to let other people down, I didn’t want to let myself down. And became it was a role in the Church, I also held unobtainable standards for myself, because that’s what God would have wanted me to do and believe.
But God ain’t giving Energizer Bunnies any gold stars in heaven.
In fact, if life and scripture has taught me anything, it’s actually quite the opposite, for there’s a glory in the slowness and in the lack of hustle. There’s a glory in taking the time to stop and pause and refuel our tired, weary selves.
A couple of weeks ago, when a last-minute ticket to the Why Christian conference landed in my lap (or really, in my inbox, I should say), seeing that the conference was just over the bridge at the indomitable Grace Cathedral, I couldn’t not say yes.
Of course, I was just coming off of book launch season, of hustling and promoting The Color of Life, of entering into conversations and hoping that numbers and readers and reviews would rise. And if I’m honest with you, a big part of going to the conference meant knowing I’d have an opportunity to network with other authors and creatives – with the ones I knew might be able to help get my book out into the world.
I mean, I didn’t even think about the fact that the conference might actually feed my soul.
In a way, I’ve been part of the Christian machine – and a part of the machine, might I point out that feeds others, that leads others, that restores others – for so long that I forget how I need to be fed and led and restored too.
But I don’t think I realized this until I sat in Micha Boyett’s workshop, as she reflected on the God whose very existence is the opposite of hustle. Because when we remember that stillness leads to clarity and clarity leads to joy, then we also remember that “so much of the spiritual life happens when we stop to look and listen.”
Micha’s seen this in her own life, especially over the last four years, when her youngest son, Ace, entered her family’s life. Because of Ace’s very existence, Micha was forced to take the time to look and listen, even if it was the last thing she wanted to do …even if every bone in her writerly body thought she needed to keep up with the pen-to-paper Joneses.
But if Micha were sitting right here with us today, I think she’d be the first to tell you that she wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, as for me, and maybe as for you too, I’m taking my cues from Micha and from my body and from the one (as Micha reminded me), who let his friend stay dead longer than normal.
And instead of singing along to the best of Van McCoy – do the hustle, do the hustle – I’m adding a little late 90s refrain to the end: Not.
Because that’s it. End of story. End of hustle. End of the machine. So long, farewell.
Might I encourage you to do the same?
Let me just say this: if you’ve not gotten your hands on Micha’s book, Found, please remedy that situation ASAP. It’s available everywhere books are sold! Also, if you’re still reading, say a prayer for the co-founder of the Why Christian conference, Rachel Held Evans, who died early Saturday morning, May 4th.