Quiet Heart or MAD Life?

A friend sent me this blog post from a blogger, Colleen Chao…let’s just say I found it very convicting and encouraging and did I mention convicting?

It all started with a simple late-night chat, but before we knew it, Eddie and I were dreaming and digging our city-soft fingers into the rich soil of another world. A slower, quieter world…
Both of us want to learn how to think outside of our culturally cast paradigm, exercising mental muscles atrophied by a harried, sexually absorbed, materialistic, self-serving culture. But we also want to learn how to effectively love and minister to the people in this culture. What a tight rope we walk as we seek to be in the world but not of it, eh?
One of our recurring conversations is how to lead a quieter life than the one our world promotes. During my late twenties and early thirties I was the poster child for the Modern American Dream (i.e., MAD): madly cramming my days with people and activities, including wonderful ministries, until I became a severe stress case. In our culture, it’s a badge of honor, a symbol of virility and achievement, to juggle as much as humanly possible—and then some—and to talk often about how stressed we are. Carpe diem!… right?
But while Scripture commands us often to work hard (not be lazy), number our days (so we gain a heart of wisdom), present our bodies as a living sacrifice, and lay down our lives for our brothers, I’ve yet to find a passage that says anything about burning the candle at both ends, spreading ourselves too thin, and ministering to everyone all the time. Even Jesus didn’t do that.
On the contrary, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and 1 Timothy 2:2 tell us to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” and “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” In the past two years I’ve only begun to sink my teeth into these truths. How do I, how do we as a family, do this in the midst of a culture that worships Busyness and Busybodies?
A recent trip to San Diego crossed my path with an older, wiser woman of God who has counseled many women—women my age who are having nervous breakdowns after living at breakneck speed for too long. During our brief conversation she exhorted me to learn how to slow down now, to listen to my body, to practice stillness and quietness.
That forces the question: If every moment of my week is crammed with busyness, how can I ever hope to cultivate that beautiful, quiet spirit that God wants for me (1 Peter 3:4)?
Which forces other questions:
Can I really do 100 different things well?
What values will Jeremy learn by the schedule I keep?
What if I invested deeply and faithfully in just 10 relationships instead of dabbling in 200?
Do I have time to listen without distraction to my husband? To snuggle next to my baby and read him a book?
Am I running on adrenaline, anxiety, fumes?
Is my busyness actually a form of laziness?
Am I uncomfortable with silence? Do I need music or noise to help me feel at ease?
Why am I keeping the pace I’m keeping?
Some seasons of our lives are necessarily full or pressing or intensely busy—due to moving, changing jobs, marrying, having a baby, or suffering a loss or the death of a loved one. And sometimes the Lord entrusts us with unique and pressing burdens that stretch us far beyond what we thought we could handle. These are part of the agony and ecstasy, the ebb and flow of our lives, and as such are unavoidable. But in my normal, ongoing lifestyle, am I characterized by over-commitment and stress?
I haven’t figured this out. Not by a long shot. Perhaps it will be a lifelong journey, a slowly learned lesson as each new season unfolds new challenges and opportunities. Perhaps I’ll be tempted to swing the pendulum and err on the side of self-preservation. Or perhaps I’ll revisit my addiction to insanity. Either way, may my gracious Lord continue to teach me how to keep a quiet heart in a loud culture so that I can be a conduit of His love to those around me—and love Him above all else.
And now to find that house in the country, away from the noise of the city… ☺

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