This past summer marked a major shift in my life: I graduated college and got married. Although that sequence of events seems to be every woman’s dream, we don’t think much past the chiming wedding bells and pristinely hung diploma. Now that all the excitement has died down and life has returned to “normal,” I’ve been able to reflect on my college years, my single years, and my relationship with Christ in ways I never have before.
Here’s what I learned: I wish I hadn’t “done” so much.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the thrill of busyness and to-do lists a mile long. I love to travel. I love hopping from one class or meeting to another, seeing how much I can squeeze into each day. Those of you who love to be high-achieving perfectionists will agree.
But here’s what no one tells you: that stuff won’t matter two years from now—maybe even two months from now. I feel like I spent four years establishing a life that disappeared in a matter of weeks.
I still live and work in my college town, but my daily schedule and desires are totally different. I often feel guilty that I’m not doing more, making more, or being more than I am. I am ashamed that for all those years, I put a significant amount of worth in what I did. You don’t realize how crippling that mindset is until what you “did” is replaced by something you may deem less significant.
For weeks I was discouraged and searching for purpose in this new stage. I continued to spend time with God and beg Him for purpose and things to do. I didn’t understand why He wasn’t answering. But He was.
You see, not every stage of life was meant to be that exciting book chapter. In fact, if you look through Scripture you will find many times of waiting. Abram waited decades for a child. Joseph was a slave for years. David fled from Saul for a good portion of his young adult life. The apostle Paul took a three-year retreat in Arabia before beginning his ministry. Why don’t we ever talk about those times? How these “greats of the faith” must have felt? How they grew?
And have you ever wondered what Jesus did with the first 30 years of his life? We know from Scripture that He liked to study in the temple and that he worked as a carpenter. Would anyone praise that kind of life as “exceptional” or “high-achieving?” Probably not. But that does not change the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life, died the death that we deserved, and provided a way for us to be reunited to the Father through redemption and forgiveness of sins. He was the most important and incredible human to ever walk the earth.
I fear that we have idolized importance and achievement so highly that if we lived in Biblical times, we would have written off our own Savior’s life as insignificant. Do you see how confused we’ve become? Our society’s “doing” addiction is wrong. And pursuit of busyness is futile. If we truly want to live in the footsteps of our Savior, we should not be so inundated with to-do lists and resume check lists that we forget to enjoy God and all that He is.
In those four busy college years, I met with the Lord daily. I read God’s Word, I prayed, I mentored, I meditated. It’s been perplexing to me to reflect on why after all those years, I didn’t feel like I grew much in my walk. But it’s simple. I was so full of other things that I often inadvertently gave God my leftovers. In fact, I gave a lot of things my leftovers because that’s all I had to offer.
It’s taken these past few months to realize that God has intentionally given me this time of “less” to give Him “more.” I’m learning to enjoy Him, to think about Him throughout my day, and to be content with simply enjoying His creation. This takes both humility and patience, but it’s worth the journey.
Although this process of learning and growth is different for everyone, I fear our culture is becoming so busy and self-sufficient that it’s difficult to see who God is, even when we set aside time to spend with Him. Our minds are distracted, all we have to give is leftovers, and we end up feeling empty.
Let me encourage you, friend, life with God should never feel distracted or draining. If it does, we are approaching something incorrectly. Sometimes it takes what we perceive as “boredom” or “inconvenience” to get our minds ready to experience God in a new way.
If you are in a time of extreme busyness, take some time to contemplate why you are doing the things you’re doing. Will they matter 2 months from now? What can you cut out to leave more time (both in your schedule and in your mind and heart) to devote to the Lord? I know it may not seem as urgent as the paper you have to write or the work project that’s due, but it is!
One day Jesus will return, and He will be the only One who matters. How are you preparing today for eternity? And will you embrace with me the call to stop “doing?”