Slow Down

Lately, I’ve been hearing myself asking a lot of questions like, “How did I get here?” and “Is this what I am supposed to be doing, or did I just hear you wrong, God?”—especially while working on electrochemistry homework at the end of a long workday. I think that’s what prompted me to buy the book in the first place (that, and my unfortunate weakness for Amazon.com).

Thankfully, though, my latest purchase, Coming Up for Air: Simple Acts to Redefine Your Life by Margaret Becker, paid off. Eleven years ago, Becker’s life was too busy and spinning out of control. Constantly running to catch up with her life left her exhausted and wondering if that’s what she was supposed to be doing. So, she took a month-long solo trip to a Florida beach to process everything. Her only commitment was to watch the sun rise and set each day.

In the book, she discusses the lists she made of her life goals, things that make her feel successful, and how she has implemented what God revealed during the past 10 years back in the “real world.” I could relate to just about every word—except for the part about wanting a golden retriever one day. I love my Siamese cats.

As a new, part-time graduate student with a full-time job, I have been overwhelmed lately by the fear that my life will just be about engineering for the next two or three years; that somehow my “real life,” the one I am really supposed to be living, will pass me by. I enjoy my work, but I don’t want it to define me. Becker’s book reminded me that there are choices I can make to help me get through this part of my journey without parting company with my sanity and joy in the process.

At first I was envious of her ability to write lists of what she wanted to do, be and improve in her life. As a person who is relaxation-impaired, it’s been a long time since I cleared my mind and focused on just listening. To be honest, I was scared of what such an exercise might mean.

But when I finally did try to relax and listen, an obvious fact hit me over the head: I need more time with God. How did I miss that? Had I just been ignoring it? I need much less “me in front of my soap operas” time and more “what do you need me to hear today, God?” time.

In the past I have been afraid of what I will hear from God if I give Him my complete attention too often. I need to embrace the fact that He loves me enough to say what I need to hear. God hasn’t let me down yet, and I need to stop expecting that He will.

After my first “profound” revelation, I just spent some time quietly listening. I found that a list of goals made its way onto the paper in front of me—items ranging from “try to actually stick to a budget” to “visit England and Wales, and learn some Welsh before I go” to “don’t avoid new situations and meeting new people due to lack of self-confidence and fear of rejection.” I am not too thrilled with that last item, because I could feel a challenge coming on as soon as I wrote it down. But, overall, writing the list felt therapeutic. I actually felt hopeful and energetic afterwards—rare, for me.

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It would have been really easy to just blow off Becker’s words by saying, “Yeah, well, not everyone can take a month off and go to the beach. You are one of the lucky ones.” But God wasn’t going to let me off the hook that easily. That isn’t really His style.

The book reminded me that the journey looks different for everyone. For some it’s a month long retreat on a beach; for me, it’s making the decision to back away from the TiVo remote more often. Take time to just listen to the wind in the trees outside, read my Bible for a while or just sit and enjoy being where I am on that given day.

I plan to keep adding to my list and, hopefully, checking something off from time to time. Writing and submitting this article is one attempt. I have no idea where any of this is going, but I can feel the peace that comes with knowing I am continuing in the direction in which God is leading me. And that’s always the best place to start.

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