“I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.”
Psalm 62:1-2 NLT
There is one thing I learned in the last year that has come to help me tremendously. Something revolutionary. Something catastrophic, in the most wonderful way. Something unexpected. Something beautiful, respite giving, a life-hack of sorts. Are you ready for this?
I learned to stop.
Yes, dear friend, you can learn this too!
I didn’t come to this revelation on my own, nor did it come from deep reflection after my return from vacationing to an idyllic tropical utopia. I’m talking life lessons learned the hard way.
Living internationally for 15+ years has worn me down. The mental gymnastics of bi-lingual living takes its toll. Raising three rambunctious third culture kids is full of challenges. Thing upon thing. Stress upon stress. Each morning as I woke, I began to feel like a starfish being pulled in five different directions before my feet even hit the floor. I began praying, talking to people wiser than me and seeking the Lord for the wisdom only He can give, and that’s where the breakthrough came. My Father in Heaven, my Rock and my source of all hope would often prompt me to simply pause, take a break or just stop.
If the pressure of the day was too great: I stopped.
If my mind ran in a bazillion different directions: I stopped.
If I couldn’t figure out what to do, things got too intense and my schedule seemed to suffocate me with its duress: I stopped.
Now, to some this might seem as straightforward as a deliberate pause. The idea of meditation, intentionality or mindfulness have become the darlings and buzzwords of pop culture conversation. Even though those ideas are often what ‘stopping’ leads to, it still gets a little too technical for me. So, I simply decided to – you guessed it – stop. Pressing in requires something of us that will cost us, but the payout of wisdom God gives us as we seek Him holds value far beyond the temporary sacrifice.
Simply put: He taught me to start stopping. But, stopping wasn’t easy.
It might be worth clarifying that stopping was highlighted to me as this—a discipline. No true discipline is developed overnight; all take time to cultivate and require patience, intentionality and effort. Cross-cultural workers are caregivers, nurturers and “yes people” by nature. In the seedling stages this mandate seemed more like an impossible feat, rather than any type of help. How in the world can I stop when everything causing me distress is clamoring for my attention to get done?!?! “Poco a Poco”or “little by little” was my favorite phrase in Spanish as I tried desperately years ago to learn another language; it became my mantra of sorts in this process, as well. Little by little helps us to focus on progress – not perfection – as we make painstaking strides towards the goal.
I learned to withdraw to my bedroom. I shut the door and put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the handle, and asked my husband, kids or coworkers for at least 5 minutes, sometimes more. I had to look for ways to stop, but that was part of the creative process. I shut off all distractions and got away. No tech, chores, pressure, stress and simply stopped.
In the stopping, that’s where God’s grace met me.Like an oasis in my day, he gave me the freedom to slow down and refresh. To breathe and breathe deeply. Sometimes I threw my hands up in surrender where he took over, sometimes clarity came, and sometimes neither. But I learned to give myself a 5+ minute break and discover the grace of stopping.
In this life change, I learned a few things.
First of all, like building any muscle or consistency in any discipline, it took practice. I’m better now than I was before at stopping, but it took time in the beginning to even recognize what I needed to do was stop. It’s progress that’s important.
Second, I had to learn to calm down, shut out distractions and wait for God’s voice, and his voice alone. It took time to calm myself and distinguish the difference between all the voices swirling in my head.
Third, I had to build up the resilience to say no, and I had to choose to stop, regardless of the pressure of my schedule. This one, most of all, did not come easily. It’s no effortless task to untangle from the mess of busyness. I had to move from frantic into peace, ask my heart what it needed most, and lay my needs at the feet of Jesus.
In stopping, I found God waiting to meet me in solace. And in solace I found peace.
I learned peace isn’t a feeling, it’s a person named Jesus who loves us, loves to restore, and will meet us in our mess.
So, friends, I would like you to ask yourselves a few questions: Am I willing to stop? In stopping can I take hold of grace? Can I give myself the gift of this? The grace of stopping.