Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge. – Winston Churchill
The shadows lay across her face as much as the light. She was waking slowly. Today, she had that luxury. The rumble of the girls’ little feet on the wooden floors, the distant echo of her son rattling the side of his bed – this place was void of these things. Her husband had given her a night off…to sleep…in a HOTEL – ALONE.
Years ago, this would hardly have seemed a luxury. She could see it now for what it was. And yes, her body still ached. The muscle relaxants and lidocaine patch hadn’t done much for that. Perhaps there was something autoimmune going on, perhaps it was just what happens when life hits you hard – when you daily carry the weight of one who was meant to walk.
One of the first thoughts in that palpable silence was this: those tangled wires – the urgent documents that she’d been needing to print and fax, for a while. In the calm and quiet, her mind raced 5 miles home to the mess.
She bought a printer last month. Dominoes fell. Somehow that purchase had created a “need” for several other electronics. In mere minutes, she had pulled out ALL the tangled wires for EVERYTHING electronic they owned – with the intention of setting them all straight. But the task, was too big. Having everything integrated in one spot and dozens of wires tangled…it made her want to run for the hills! It had been undone for weeks now. It seemed as ominous to her as a dirty bedroom seemed to her preschoolers – a cinder block wall in her path.
The quick thought tapped her shoulder, “These things are blessings, right?” “Those tangled wires do plug into useful electronics, don’t they?”
As these thoughts rushed in, her mind quickly released the scripture she’d just read,
“Let the little children come unto me. Only such as become like one of these shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”
How to contain the wires? How to label them? How to group them. What to buy to bundle them? Did she need to buy more labels? How should she rearrange the furniture around it all.
She didn’t need to buy anything new. “Keep it simple. TRY to enjoy this break,” she told herself.
Order in the mess? Was it even possible?
How many times a day did her mind do this? – rush to the ordering and organizing and planning of things – things her family needed? – things that kept her broken boy healthy? Things to change the world? She knew the answer:
She touched down into the present for mere seconds of the day. Problem solving can be tyrannical.
“Fixing” and “Doing” dominated her life. She began the day on short circuits of email and Facebook and news on her phone. She laid down tracks for her mind to keep itself tangled in these short circuits all day long.
What did she lay hold of first? – her phone. At the end of the day? – her phone.
What of the souls? The 4 other souls in her house? When was the last time she engaged in this mental plotting to enjoy her time with them? Was she ever going to do that new game she bought for them? That passing thought of letting them paint the TV box? It had already been weeks. Who was she kidding?!
Could the planner/calendar help? Doubts came. The things she wrote in there – they were more like testimonies of past failures – ideals passed by. It was a rare thing that the skyline she painted there held any of the same lines as her actual day.
Why was she so tired? She knew the answer before the question. Life battered hard. Stress held a tight grip. The tyranny of the urgent always seemed to usher in the lesser choices. Those lesser choices always seemed to have the upper hand in this arm wrestling match.
How to help the underdog? This wasn’t her first time considering this. Somehow the matter seemed to make the same progress as her laundry. Pulling the days clothes from their piles – things never made it to their proper places. Progress seemed like a cruel joke.
The image of that pink cell phone always emerged in these self-help/self-loathing sessions. It was a virtual Mary Poppin’s bag with more tools than could be counted…but it somehow managed to subtract much from her life. She need only grab it to help with one problem and get pulled into 10 more things that needed her attention. She saw that but was helpless to change it.
“Lord, please help me to see what I see so dimly! Bring simplicity to this complexity!”
“Laying the rails.” She remembered reading this. What type of track did she lay for her day to run on? It was cyclical, wasn’t it? And not any kind of pretty long circle either….more like a bad web of inter tangled short circles that seemed to prevent her from ever being present…really present. Thought of the 100’s of things drawing her attention online dominated her thoughts even when she wasn’t near a computer or phone. Her husband had been telling her that she wasn’t even present when she was around. She hadn’t want to believe it, but now in the quiet, with nothing but pen and paper, she knew: He was right.
Her soul longer for the choices that she rarely chose!
The things that invigorated her, she rarely did: gardening, swimming, playing outside, writing reading…they always took the back-burner.
Her eyes opened more. For the first time, she saw what had been stirring in her soul for a long time.
Smell, taste, touch, hearing, vision… The senses. Was there something more than the obvious?
She loved to read and particularly outside, yet EVERY. single. day. when nap time rolled around, the TV seemed like the better choice. Eating junk food seemed more appealing than the health food she really did love. Extra sleep always trumped exercise. We can laugh and say she was completely lacking in self-discipline, but really doesn’t the short and easy always have more appeal than the long-term choices that come with sacrifice? And in the midst of stress and grief, doesn’t the appeal of quick comfort grow?
Every thing she could think of that made her feel fulfillment seemed to have an alternative, shorter-term, easier option standing in front of her…Go home and make a salad versus a quarter pounder with cheese in a quick minute? Her present senses nearly always won – the burger versus the salad, phone vs. time in her Bible, TV vs. reading, phone vs. kids, phone vs. cooking dinner, inside vs. outdoors. How was it that she almost never chose the things that filled her soul? Call it what you like: short-term senses vs. long-term, flesh vs. spirit….you name it. This battle does exist for any of us in any given minute. The short-term choices nearly always keep us from being invested or even having our feet planted IN THE PRESENT.
Was it possible? Could she break the pattern of these lesser choices? Could she learn to touchdown long enough to HEAR her children? Her husband?
How could she grow her future senses? Surely the more she could choose the better things, the more she would be enabled to choose them.
It came to her like a rippling breeze – “on my knees.” She closed her eyes, shaking off the last remnants of the morning haze.
“Lord, please help me to live in humility – with hands open to receive from you – not fists of bitterness and self-sufficiency raised.
Oh Lord, I know that you have put these things within me – the desire to create and bring order. I also see that the enemy wants to grow these to obtuseness – to have them overtake me – almost as if to keep me unaware of these “upper senses.” Where is moderation? The tyranny of the urgent gives me little time on my knees.
Please Lord, help me to heighten these better senses – to lay better rails for my day – to keep my face looking heavenward and to know when the enemy is dragging me toward enslavement.
May I lay patterns in the day that keep me running back to you – not my own fixes. Those fixes leave me tangled in the cords, in new-found chaos, that only comes in seeking to improve self by self.
Make my faith child-like – simple.
I need you. Help me, Lord.
Thank you great Father – for loving me and desiring that I call on you – that I live life to the fullest – that I take part in your joy with all of my senses!”
In that prayer, between words uttered, ideas came to her. Ideas that might seem counter-intuitive:
- remove certain “useful” apps from my phone that pull me from the present
- take away bookmarks to common pages that I go to out of habit more than necessity
- put literal distance between phone and self – charge it in the kitchen, not by the bed
- use the old alarm clock (the phone did not have to be 500 devices in one)
- take time for meditation and prayer BEFORE touching the phone
- don’t touch the phone or computer in the first valuable hour of the day (family needed precedence)
These ideas would take months to create any palatable difference. It wasn’t perfect. She did slip up here and there, but the cycles of flipping through it in one spare second after another? – no. They tyrannical urgent now had more of a backseat, and not so much because of any glamorous ideas or 10 steps…but out of surrender, out of dependence. One of her main priorities in parenting was to teach her children to ask, and ask nicely, for help. How could she have been so blind to what was in front of her? Her wires had been helplessly tangled, and she had simply needed to ask for help…and to keep asking and looking and seeking…as a child.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 5:15
He is our life source. When we keep running from our power supply, we tangle. When we run to Him as a child does their father, and pull life from Him, we grow deep roots.