Last weekend I went to a women’s retreat for the ladies of our church. Two-hundred women laughing, talking, singing, crying, listening, praying, playing, relaxing together. I came away feeling full—full of good Amish food (they make magical pie…and noodles), but mostly I was soul-full.
The theme of the retreat was Pause. The idea being, we need to hit pause on our day-to-day lives and “Come away” with Jesus. We need to take time to empty ourselves of the busyness that clogs our thinking and emotions, and fill ourselves with the simple truth of Christ. Take time to lay down our self-imposed to-do lists and seek His direction. Take time away from our endless striving for more to notice the blessings God has already laid at our feet. And in taking time away, we find peace. We find rest. We find joy. We find….life!
I was reminded of Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. (If you haven’t read it, do.) One of the most valuable lessons I gathered from her book was the idea of being “In The Moment.” So much of my life is spent worrying about what lies ahead. All the what-ifs of life blur my vision to my present reality and drain me of peace.
“Time is a relentless river.” She writes. “It rages on, a respecter of no one. And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here. I can slow the torrent by being all here. I only live the full life when I live fully in the moment…. ’Wherever you are, be all there.’”
‘Wherever you are, be all there.’ This lesson has been my grounding point since I read the book three years ago. Not that I always remember to ground myself. But when I feel myself tensing to the breaking point, angry at everything and nothing, I hear this whisper: Where are you, child? And I realize I have raced ahead in my mind, constructing a virtual reality of expectations and fearful what-ifs and manic must-do’s. And in my stressed-out worry, I flatten everyone around me in the resulting rage.
This is not the life God wants for me. This worn-out stress ball of fear and fire is not the woman He envisions me to be. He calls out to me, and to you too: “Come, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I WILL GIVE YOU REST” (Matthew 11:28). Come. Now. Present tense. I will give you rest in the right now and in all your days future-tense. Oh what a promise. Words I need when my lists seem long and time seems short and the screaming stress of it all seems to crowd in on me. Oh what a Savior who offers to save me…from myself! And offers, in return, time.
“Time, what God first deemed holy above all else (Genesis 2:3). Thank God for the time, and very God enters that time, presence hallowing it. True, this full attention slows time and I live the full of the moment, right to out edges. But there’s more. I awake to I AM here. When I’m present, I meet I Am, the very presence of a present God. In His embrace, time loses all sense of speed and stress and space and stands so still and…holy.”*
I know some find her language too flowery, but it speaks to my heart. This idea of being present to notice what is around me, to notice and give thanks for the beauty, the little gifts Eternal God has granted me each day—it changes my perspective and slows the ticking of the clock. Being present in the present miraculously lengthens my days. I cannot explain it. But I have noticed that when I pause, when I follow Jesus’ command “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will care for itself,” (Matthew 6:34) my priorities change. The fear and stress that paralyze me with worry no longer have a hold on me. When I live simply in the moment, I find His strength to accomplish what He has placed before me. My responsibilities don’t change. The things that need doing don’t go away. But in the day-to-day moments, I know contented joy. Peace. THIS is the abundant life.
*One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, Zondervan, 2010
All Scriptures from New American Standard Bible.