1 John 5:5-13
I travel a great deal for my work, often teaching sessions to large groups of people who then all want to talk with me to ask questions or get more information. I love what I do and it is truly gratifying to make a difference in people’s lives. Yet I can get quite drained when I am always around the crowds and constantly have to be "on". After a while, I just want to cocoon somewhere by myself so I can recharge my batteries.
Apparently that is not a bad thing. When the crowds were getting to be too much for Jesus, he instructed them not to tell anyone about the healings he wrought, and he withdrew to deserted places alone. That means I am in good company when I take care of myself and avoid getting burned out.
There is one big difference between Jesus’ actions and mine, though. I like to get away from everyone and pamper myself, perhaps going for a walk in the fresh air, indulging in a coffee drink or a hot cocoa, reading in a quiet spot, or going for a swim. Jesus withdrew to pray.
I know I should spend more time in prayer, and in my heart I want to. But I have not been very disciplined about my prayer life lately. It’s so easy to sleep in a little extra, to say I "don’t have time", or to get going on my list of responsibilities and never look back. I still pray throughout the day, talking to God, singing, and being aware of God’s presence. But that’s not enough. I also need to dedicate specific blocks of time to prayer.
In the times of my life when I was devoted to daily quiet prayer time, everything was better. Bad things, stressors, and sometimes outright disasters still happened. Deadlines still needed to be met, people still pressed in on me, and I still got drained from too much crowd-time. Yet I felt more centered, calm, and focused. I forgave more easily, received more insights, had more patience, and was more content. I did my job more effectively and I grew as a person. Sometimes the words someone needed to hear simply appeared in my mouth.
So what is holding me back from doing something I know is so beneficial? Am I afraid that I will lose my precious control? Am I walking around wounded and scarred but unwilling to admit that I need help and healing? Am I taking God for granted, expecting divine help whenever I need it even as I let our relationship slowly deteriorate? I don’t have it all figured out yet. Ironically, the way to "figure it out" is to go to God in prayer.
Perhaps this can be my New Year’s resolution. I resolve to continue taking care of myself, but to do so by balancing my worldly self-care with spiritual self-care. I resolve to spend dedicated prayer time every single day without exception. I resolve to be naked and vulnerable before God, trusting in divine love and mercy to accept me where I am and stretch me to where I need to go. And even though I know I won’t perfectly fulfill this resolution, I resolve to keep trying.
Will you join me?
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.