“You can’t drink when the well is dry.” –Sandra McCracken
I love big, open houses that have character. My husband and I found a log cabin way outside of town and went to check it out. The house was amazing. Lots of character, tall ceilings, and a wall of windows overlooking the fields and woods outside. As we walked through the house, though, I started to notice that the floor was uneven in spots. Some spots felt soft as I pressed on them with my foot. I didn’t even want to begin to think about everything that was wrong with the floors and the foundation of this house. I tried to forget about it and focus on all that this house offered, but, unfortunately, all of that promise was nothing compared to all of the work it would take to re-do the structural damage.
The more I’ve thought about this house, the more I realize how much this house has in common with the way we tend to do life. So much of our focus is on doing. We build our lives and our choices about how things look, it’s about the activity, it’s about to-do lists and check-marks and making sure that I’m doing as much or looking as good as the next person, and, by God, if I can’t be the best at least I don’t want to be the worst. It’s about perpetual action as a way of dealing with our problems. If I can’t fix it, then I can throw myself into the next activity and be busy enough and exhausted enough that I don’t have to think as much about it anymore.
But then, slowly, the floor starts to get soft. Our feet stumble as we begin to notice that the house has shifted and the floor slants a little more than it used to. We put on a new coat of paint, we buy new furniture and make new curtains, but this doesn’t solve the problem. We read some more books about how to be a better time manager, a better mother, a better wife.
What do we do when our feet start to slip? What does it mean to build a strong foundation beneath all of our activity?
In a real house, the first step is to stop the activity in the house, to hoist up the house, and to rebuild the foundation. Otherwise, all of the work in the house is wasted. The newly painted walls will begin to crack. The new carpet will be flooded with water from burst pipes.
The first step is to stop.
Our worst enemy can be silence. We take the silence and fill it up with social media, with music, with mindless TV and with podcasts and audiobooks. Rest seems to be a dirty word. Multi-tasking is one of the most valued skills in our culture. There have been times I’ve been embarrassed to admit out loud that I rested because this opens me up to hearing about how perpetually busy everyone else is, and how they are too busy to rest, and opens me up to criticism about what I’m doing wrong because I had time to rest. It opens me up to questions about my worth because I allowed time to rest.
We continue to dedicate to ourselves to all kind of causes–because we should. If we are completely honest with ourselves, our lives are filled with both worthy causes and with time-sucks that add little if any value to our lives. Our lives are filled with work that is worthy and work that is “good enough,” not to mention the work that is actually harmful to us or those in our family or in our close circles. So often we are driven by guilt to causes that are good, that we miss out on the best. Our wells are completely drive.
Many times, our biggest accuser is the one inside our own mind. Oh sure, others can try to manipulate us with guilt or with their images of perfection or perpetual busyness, but in the end, it’s my own voice telling me that I need to keep going that causes me the most problem. Stopping to rest is difficult at first because the very act of stopping exposes all of the noise that we’ve been trying to quiet with all of our busyness. The cracks in the foundation are exposed, if to no one else, to ourselves.
Until I stop. Breathe. Reset.
Rest is something that we need to practice enough that we’re able to do it well. Resting just once doesn’t fix our foundation any more than a house that gets new carpet to cover up the warped floorboards. Choosing quiet and rest hoists up our houses and gives us a chance to reset our focus, our minds, our choices of where to spend our energy, and to choose not to be either scared or bullied by the thoughts in our mind or the voices and expectations of others that play in a loop in our mind.