by Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus . . . ” Romans 5:1 Think on this calming thought today.
Yesterday, I talked about the “To-Don’t” list and how I took some time to just stop and rest. I took more than a day and I hope that you will, too. I rested until I was tired of resting. And once I was tired of resting, I started thinking about what I’d rather be doing. In other words, what would my day look like if I could do whatever I wanted?
Because, for the longest time, I did what I thought other people wanted. Or what people told me God wanted. Whether it was doing or being, I was always focused on fulfilling other people’s expectations of me. Especially in the church. But once I stopped doing and just rested, I worked on clearing my mind of what everyone else wanted me to do and be, and started thinking about who and what I wanted to do and be.
And I realized that I didn’t want to be the people-pleasing, let’s make everyone else happy but never happy enough person that I had become. There were so many days – years even – when I did not want to drive the 30 miles through ice and snow storms to get to church but I did it anyway because I didn’t want to disappoint someone or give them cause to say that I was not measuring up by not keeping my obligations. There were many times when I struggled with the guilt of not being there for my family on holidays because I was serving coffee and donut holes at the church – again, so that I wouldn’t disappoint people who never thanked me anyway. And how I regretted the many times I stood in the church building with over 2000 other people, yet no one stopped to chat with me because I wasn’t the “right” person with the “right” last name living in the “right” neighborhood, etc.
After doing pretty much nothing for a couple of weeks brought me to the point where I could start considering the things that I really wanted to do – that at the end of the day I would crawl into bed satisfied and fulfilled. And guess what? My perfect day didn’t look at all like the ones I’d been spending during all of those years at church.
Now, there are many hours in my day that I have a commitment to my job. And I commute about and hour and a half each day. So those things were non-negotiable. Gotta work. Gotta get there.
But what about the rest of the day? I started to think what I would like my “uncommitted” time to look like in general on a regular basis. Not so much what I wanted to accomplish – we’ll talk about that another day. But what would my perfect “ordinary” day look like? And I decided that I wanted my mornings to be relaxed. Get up, get ready for work, and have extra time so that if I wanted to write, I could. If I wanted to read, I could. If I wanted to get to work early, I could. No rushing around. Well-grounded, you might say.
And after work, I wanted to have time to take care of myself. To get some exercise, have a healthy meal, visit with my husband or see my step-father or my kids and my new granddaughter. And then time to rest and relax. Time for a soak in the tub with the jets on. Time to read a magazine or watch a favorite TV show. Things I rarely had time for in the past were the things I wanted to do the most. Which was a little disconcerting at first. Because I was so used to doing lots of stuff for others – working to win approval and friends. It was really hard keeping focused on what I wanted to do rather than trying to think of new places and people that I could please.
Notice, I don’t have the usual “Christian” stuff on this list. No Bible reading, book reading, studying, volunteering for a charity, finding a new church, praying. None of that was on my list. Frankly, I had done all of that for a very long time, to the point that too many other critically important things were being neglected. How Christian did my family think me if I read lots of Christian books or the Bible for hours every week but never had time to spend with them? How effective of a wife, mother, and grandmother was I going to be if I was out of shape, exhausted, and stressed?
I had been so intent on doing all of the things that the Christian community/church told me I should do that I ended up neglecting that which is most important. And it hit me. By not having all of those church obligations, I was now free to be and do the things that I would rather be doing. I was now free to take care of me. I was free to enjoy the people and the life that I had.
Think about your perfect day. Outside of the time that is non-negotiable, what would you rather be doing? Make a list. It’s okay if it’s mostly about you. Truly.
Share it in the comments if you like. And we’ll talk about it more on Day 15.
More about Ellen: