This past summer I have spent time in prayer, discerning how to find better balance in my busy life as a mother, wife, teacher, writer, volunteer, and all-around household manager. I can easily overextend myself, partly because I feel genuine enthusiasm for many different kinds of relationships and activities (well, maybe not the housecleaning). Yet I have increasingly felt a call to contemplation, which I understand as not only time spent in the presence of God, but also with family and friends, just for the pure gift of the “being” of another.
It’s helpful to distinguish between being active and being busy. Some forms of activity are restorative; for example, I took up running this summer, and while I am far from being a star athlete, running outdoors boosts my mood, relieves stress, and is a way of taking out some time for myself in nature. Still, some daily time for solitude and silence is essential to resisting the “busy” and walking more closely with God.
Here are a few other guiding principles that I am bringing into my ongoing discernment:
1. When in doubt, choose relationship.
In teaching, relationship to the students and their learning matters more than all the e-mails and administration. At home, playing a game of cards and chatting with the teenagers takes precedence over a perfectly clean house. Even a solitary activity like writing is relational, in choosing to write on a topic close to one’s heart rather than what gains the most prestige or profit.
2. Pray, then go where called.
A spiritual director phrased it beautifully in asking me, “Do you know the difference between being drawn and being driven?” Sometimes God’s call is clear, but it takes courage to “go,” like Abraham, and follow where God calls rather than where we think we are “supposed” to go.
3. Love thyself.
Self-care is not selfish. Jesus reminds us the greatest two commandments are “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus doesn’t tell us to love neighbor instead of self, but to love neighbor as oneself. Here, Jesus’s initial words are central to his deeper meaning: “The Lord is one.” Loving God and loving others is “one.” Loving others and loving oneself is also “one.”
4. Practice material simplicity.
The less physical “stuff” there is to worry about, the more relationships to God, people, and nature stay at the center.
5. Make room for spontaneity.
If life is too closely scheduled, we won’t have time for a friend who suddenly arrives from out of town, or for a few minutes to lie down on the grass just to watch the clouds. Seeking God in all things includes seeking God in the spaces and margins of the day.
What would you add to this list?