Travel back in time with me to my college days, when I was delighted to be the musical director for our campus’ only female a cappella group. Our concerts were always sold out, and we loved our work. Each year, dozens of starry-eyed freshmen auditioned while only two or three were accepted. We were a tightly knit group of talented young women who embraced each new member as if she were family. So, you can imagine, once a girl was accepted, she considered it a privilege and was committed. However, our illusion of the a capella dream burst one Thursday evening when Claire, a junior at the time, blurted out that she quit.
Our funky, book-loving, outdoorsy alto, just quit! This was unheard of. There was more to the shock as she explained that she was quitting everything: her promising business major, her sorority, the Christian club, the campus newspaper, everything. We stared at her in disbelief, as we collectively thought, She’s crazy!
Claire took a deep breath and explained that she needed to listen to God without the static of a packed agenda and obligations.
She said she was quitting the good things that were keeping her from the best thing.
Our little musical group was sobered that evening.
As Claire graciously answered our questions, I got the feeling that she had entered another universe. Like Lucy Pevensie walking past the fur coats into the magical world of Narnian snow, Claire had somehow stepped out of our competitive collegiate environment into a world where she was free to slow time down, to say “no” whenever she needed to. She was not just resisting the status quo; she was living without it entirely.
In time, her life became beautifully quiet. I?d stop by her apartment on my way to a meeting (juggling a stack of binders and a cardboard cup of mocha latte in hand), and she’d be sitting on the couch, a Bible on her lap, smiling up at me. She was available to spend the rest of the evening sharing what she had been learning. That is, if I didn?t have to run off to a meeting…
Though I too, at times, felt a tug at my heart to pursue a quieter lifestyle, my brain was so deeply ingrained with the virtues of “Commitment!” “Accomplishment!” and “Approval!” I could not entertain the possibility of quitting anything – let alone everything. The way I figured it, if God needed my time or attention, He would just have to keep up with me or shout louder to compete with my exhilarating schedule.
Several years marched by as I reveled in accomplishments, checked things off my extensive “to-do” lists, worked hard to please people and achieve the American Dream.
As the clamor of my life grew increasingly louder, the only thing that seemed to grow fainter was God’s voice.
Eventually I got married and had a baby. I tried enthusiastically to pull these two new people into my spinning, selfish lifestyle, but before I knew it, we crashed into a marital crisis so tragic that it would have ended in a divorce if God hadn?t graciously reordered our lives for us.
And that’s when we quit.
We quit staying up late, going to bed at different times, watching television, bringing in two incomes, and trying to publish a book that just wasn’t happening. We quit competing with one other, and using the same old murderous words in every argument. We quit prioritizing bosses, friends, extended family, and strangers over each other. We quit not talking to each other, not knowing what the other one was looking at on the Internet, not reading aloud in the evenings, and not enjoying each other’s company. We quit not holding each other and saying, “thank you”.
And life. slowed. down.
And got wonderfully quiet.
And very, very small.
I learned that there is a time in every person’s life for peace and quiet. It worked wonders for us in that season of life.
It gave us time to build a kind of “front porch” around our home – you know, like the lemonade-and-creaky-swing front porches that went extinct with the Waltons – on which we sat in the evenings, just rocking back and forth, appreciating the fruits of our labor, the glories of creation, and the beautiful humans who lived right there with us in our home.
I can’t begin to know all that God did to restructure our lives, but I do know that He had to tear down ugly addictions that had locked me into a distracted lifestyle. The demolition project looked something like this: in order to respect my husband, I had to get rid of selfishness, pride, and unhealthy independence. In order to stay home with our children, I had to surrender my love of accomplishment, compensation, and approval. In order to love God truly, I had to sacrifice my aspirations of “making it big for God”, because all He truly desires is for me to love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly by His side. At times, the sacrifices hurt: I turned down a book offer, speaking opportunities, teaching positions, friendships, and a favorite TV series.
The painful rebuilding process was worthwhile because through it, God gave us the freedom to appreciate the work He asks us to do and the courage to decline anything else.
We never want to lose what we learned from that experience. Ten years later, we still spend lots of time and attention on God himself and our family, believing that we’ll never regret the investment. These days, we’re figuring out how to protect the simplicity while giving ourselves fully to the ministry work that God wants us to do. We’ve taken on a few more commitments, but we try to do most things together, praying, and working side by side. We are learning what it means to be busy like Jesus was: with an eagerness to serve others, but with a quiet, devoted love for God.
Honestly, we’ll probably spend the rest of our lives learning how to do this the right way.
That’s okay: it’s worth the rigorous learning curve.
I guess I could say that over these past few years, God has broken down my heart – only to rebuild me through His Word – so that I could write to you today, utterly convinced that our walk with God and our Christian love for others is worth all of our attention for the rest of our lives.
If my sphere of influence only extends beyond the walls of our home by way of my well-respected husband, our well-loved children, and our cared-for neighbors, I will have lived a fulfilling life.
Here’s the mystery that I am counting on: by walking away from a busy, accomplishment-oriented lifestyle into a quiet world of deep relationships, service, and home-life, I will establish a far-reaching legacy that extends throughout many generations. I don’t want this conviction to fade from my daily choices. So, if I must quit or drastically change something in order to protect my relationship with God, I hope I will. At the same time, if I need to grow and increase my responsibilities in order to obey God, I hope I will.
I guess that’s the essence of blogging well. I hope I’m one of those bloggers who surrenders her time and abilities to the posts that God is writing. It’s His story, anyway, and for one sweet moment, we get to be the scribes who record His marvelous works.
(Recognize this post? I wrote it several years ago and included it in my eBook, Blogger Behave. I’m working on editing Blogger Behave – with a new title and everything. When I read this chapter recently, I needed the reminder! I hope it encourages you, too.)