I love my apartment. More accurately, I love being in my apartment. I especially love waking up in the morning and seeing the sun stream through the window. It’s particularly wonderful between about 7:30 and 9:00 in the morning. Normally, I only get that view on Saturdays, since school hours don’t let me stay home that late and I’m usually at church on Sundays.
Over the last five months, though, I’ve gotten to see a lot of that view. More than I care for. I woke up a few mornings ago feeling decidedly fed up with being in my home. (That feels like an understatement. But many people in the world can relate, so I won’t press the point.)
I decided that feeling needed a name. And you know what? If “Zoom fatigue” is now a thing, I thought that I needed to name this feeling – and a few others that surfaced within those twenty-four hours:
- Stay-at-Home Fatigue: when a person has stayed home so much that they’re dying to leave the house. I think in yesteryear, it was called Cabin Fever. But we don’t live in cabins, and I don’t have a fever. (I promise.)
- Uncertainty Fatigue: when a person has lived with so many unknowns and changing regulations and had to pivot in their plans so often that they just.can’t.take.any.more.
- People Deprivation: When a person has gone so long without regular contact with other humans (those outside of their home) that their emotional insides begin to shrivel and they start to feel desperate and starving for human interaction.
Anybody else want to raise their hand in self-diagnosis?
Here’s what I do when I get to that point – once I realize I’ve gotten to that point. And I really don’t know how I’d survive otherwise.
I hole up in my room on my bed (not in it) with my journal, a pen, and my Bible. But I don’t open up my Bible right away.
If I need to, I write or speak the words that give voice to all the emotions and thoughts whirling around inside of me.
And then I listen. And I write down what I hear.
Because here’s the thing: I believe with all my heart that God is not far away, laissez -faire, or uninterested in what happens to you, to me, or to anyone else. No. He is deeply interested. Not only that, but if we know how to listen and are willing to hear what He has to say, He speaks. He actually speaks quite often.
A couple of years ago, when I was trying to work through some pretty big emotions, a colleague handed me a thin booklet called Joyful Journey: Listening to Immanuel, written by E. James Wilder, Anna Kang, John Loppnow & Sungshim Loppnow. It taught me a Scriptural basis for how to know when we hear God’s voice, as well as a method to practice it regularly. It really helped and I love looking back on the words that God has spoken to me as I’ve written them down, because it really does sound more like Him and not so much like me. He’s a lot kinder to me than I am. So now I use that method, especially if I haven’t been practicing being in silence and solitude as regularly as I need to.
To be honest, I haven’t done much of that solitude stuff lately. It’s an avoidance thing I do. If I don’t stop to think about how I’m feeling, then I don’t have to deal with it, right? The thing is, I tend to complicate things when, as an old hymn says, “Just a little talk with Jesus makes it right.”
Talking with Jesus doesn’t often lead to a quick, miraculous solution to whatever circumstance/situation/crisis I’m facing. What that hymn perhaps should say is that, “just a little talk with Jesus makes me right.”
I can’t even promise you that I completely feel better every time. What I experience instead is a reminder that I’m not alone to deal with whatever I’m facing, and the One who is with me is totally capable of handling it. That time with Him eases my anxiety, calms my fears and restores a deep, underlying peace to my heart. And it usually doesn’t take nearly as long as I think it will for Him to help me make sense of myself. (He’s way better at that than I am.)
On the days when I don’t avoid my anxiety and instead sit with Jesus in the midst of it, I wonder why I don’t do it more. It’s truly amazing, sitting with someone who doesn’t mentally ticking off a to-do list or glancing at the time – like I so often do with Him.
What caused me to sit in silence like I did a few days ago? It was a combination of the words from a wise friend last month, the ideas in a sermon I had to listen to for work a couple of weeks ago, and the Holy Spirit simply talking to my heart and inviting me to come to Him with my load of woes that morning, rather than avoiding it or putting it off.
[Sidenote: I highly recommend the sermon: “Slow Down for Silence” by Peter Scazzero (2015). It’s the best sermon I’ve heard in . . . longer than I can remember.]
So there I sat.
And I thought about the artist mentioned in the above sermon and how it was so good for those humans to simply sit and be with her as she sat with them.
(It’s always surprisingly difficult to simply be quiet on the inside. You too?)
And I waited, pen in hand, to practice something it had been awhile since I’d done.
I panicked for a minute: What if I can’t hear Him? It’s been awhile since I’ve practiced just listening to what He has to say to me. I mean, my ears were working from September to February of this year, but . . .I don’t think they have been working quite as well since March! I’m not sure I can do this anymore!
But, like doing crunches after a period of not working out, once I started, my muscles did remember how to do it – even though it was harder than it used to be. Then I took a deep breath, and I started to write:
I know it’s hard. And I do care. “Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you.” I know these last few months have been weird and difficult and it seems that they’re lasting forever. Nothing lasts forever except Me. All this is temporary in the big scheme of things.
I love you and I have your best interests in mind. Will you keep holding on and fighting to withstand temptation and persevere in what I’ve called you to do in this season? Write. . . and let My light spill from all the cracks.
And in the meantime, I will hold you. I will take care of you, just like I always have – and always will. Do not worry about tomorrow. And trust Me for today. I love you.
They’re simple words, right? But those words calmed my heart, refocused my mind, and settled my spirit. The thing is…those words are for you too, if you’ll accept them.
Once I let those words embrace me like the warmest hug, I did one more thing: I gave thanks.
Gratitude is one of the best ways I’ve found to get myself out of a funk.
I said thank you for things like:
- God’s love and promise to sustain me – and to sustain this whole, wide, wonderful world
- that I have people to miss as I’m feeling people deprivation
- for voice calls,video calls, text messages and podcasts that let me hear other human voices – especially those I love most in this world
- that He is Lord even over gum grafts that don’t seem to be healing quite right
- the He gives me my identity and names who I am, so I don’t have to be concerned with what others think of me and my job performance, as long as I’m being faithful to obey Him as I work
- for the fact that, in Him, I have a remedy for all my feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, and anxiety
Like I said in the beginning, I don’t know how I’d survive this season without the presence of Jesus. If that’s new to you or you’re thinking I sound like the weirdest person ever, I’d love to talk with you. In this case, being weird is great!
If it sounds familiar, but you’ve never taken the time to try silence and solitude and simply enjoying the Lord’s presence, may I encourage you to watch the sermon I linked above or get that book I mentioned, and then just…try it?
And remember, it’s not just about finding peace for our souls, though that is a great by-product. It’s about building and enjoying a relationship:
Silence with God has a value in itself and for its own sake, just because God is God. Failure to recognize the value of mere being with God, as the beloved, without doing anything, is to gouge the heart out of Christianity.Edward Schillebeeckx
We were made to be first and do second. Doing flows out of being; not the other way around.
May you and I learn to be with God and not mentally tick off our to-do lists while we sit. It takes practice, but it’s worth it: the most filling action we could ever do is to be.