I’ve been realizing lately just how much I seek out distraction. I regularly complain about how busy I am and how I wish I had time to reflect and process what’s going on in my life. However, when I finally get that time, I quickly fill it with distraction- Facebook, Netflix, or another mind-numbing drug of choice. Sometimes facing what’s going on inside is just too hard. I’m scared of what I’ll find if I truly stop and listen to what my soul is telling me.
I think that this is one of the greatest blind spots of our culture currently. Technology has created the ability for unceasing distraction from all of the things we don’t want to face. In a moment we can call, Skype, text, or FaceTime a friend so that we never have to be alone. We can find out anything we want to know in seconds via the internet. And if our own lives feel too depressing, we can get lost in another world for hours binge watching a show on Netflix. Sometimes escapism is so much easier than facing what’s really going inside of us.
However, I’m learning just how much my soul needs silence and solitude. I need time alone with just myself and God to remember who I am and how God sees me. In silence and solitude I realize just how much I need God and how I’ve been trying to satisfy myself with everything but him. It is there that I face my inner darkness and experience the light of God’s grace.
The cure for my restless, anxious heart isn’t escapism and distraction, but rather engagement with God in the quiet place.
“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning. And as he spoke, he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can truly say they lived happily ever after. But for them, it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had been only the cover and the title page. Now at last they were beginning Chapter 1 of the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
–C.S. Lewis “The Last Battle”
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. For a while I had this passage on my mirror and I would read it daily. I love how beautifully it describes the hope of heaven.
Sadly the good things we experience on earth tend to have little permanence. Loved ones pass away unexpectedly. Friends move in and out of our lives. People get sick with cancer. Marriages end in divorce. Even simple joys like the weekend or vacation quickly come to an end. I always feel restless the last day of summer vacation because I know I’m about to return to the stress of real life. My soul longs for permanence, for the good things in life to last.
It’s so encouraging to know that life will not always be this way. One day we will step into a new reality where “every chapter is better than the one before”. What a glorious thought! The good things in life will one day be permanent.
As a teacher, it’s that time of year where life feels especially overwhelming. Paperwork. Deadlines. End of year assessments. A shortage of student supplies that were so abundant at the start of the year. Messy, crammed desks and book boxes. Dreaded state testing. Antsy kiddos very much ready for summer break. Tired teachers equally ready for said break! Most discouraging, though, is that sense of failure that my perfectionist self so readily experiences. I look back over the year and see all the flaws and holes in my teaching. I obsess about all the places where I wish I’d done better. I resolve to be more thorough in those areas next year. Although teaching brings such purpose and meaning to my life, it also causes me to be immensely hard on myself.
Recently, I got into a new phase (this happens regularly) where I was exploring the meaning of names. I learned a lot in the process. For example, be wary of naming your child “Cameron” as it means “crooked nose”. Also avoid the name “Calvin” since it means “bald one”. After chuckling at some of these meanings, I re-explored the meaning of my name. For years I’ve known that Hannah means “gracious”. However, I’ve always thought that meant that I am called to be one who is gracious to others. As I re-read the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1, I remembered how the barren Hannah deeply desired a son and God granted her heart’s desire. This wasn’t a story about Hannah working hard to be gracious to others. Rather it was a story of God extending grace to Hannah. In that moment, the Lord told me that a key piece of my identity is to be one who deeply knows God’s grace. He encouraged me that every time someone calls my name, it is a reminder that “God is gracious to you”.
This is what my soul needs most deeply. God’s grace. My identity is not rooted in striving to do better or be more. My identity is centered in who God is and how he sees me.