Someone recently asked me this:
"What made you decide to start living life at a slower pace?"
It's an interesting question for me because I didn't have an "ah-ha" moment that led me to start this journey. It's not like I was working my way up the corporate ladder and got burnt out or something.
Mostly, I'm just really bad at living a fast and productive life.
When I gave her that answer, we both laughed. But it's the truth.
Still, there have been many times where I've felt that pressure to rush. We all feel it, and it usually comes when we see other people doing something better, faster, or smarter than us. Then all of a sudden, we're falling behind —and we have to play catch up in order to stay significant and productive.
It's an ugly, endless cycle of comparison. And it feels like the opposite of the formula necessary for living a really beautiful life.
I've spent the past couple of years trying to let that pressure die within me. Holding out a firm hand to the hustle and saying "no" when the world insists that I move faster than I feel comfortable.
It's a difficult thing to do, especially when you're following your dreams. At least, that's exactly how it feels now as I am learning to follow mine.
A few weeks ago, I booked a short stay at St. Joseph's monastery. The first time I went was back in January, when I tried to get away to start writing a book that was on my heart. But when I arrived that wintry day, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to lay everything down —plans, expectations, and fears.
"If you don't know how much I love you, then all your work is for nothing." That's what He told me.
This time, I didn't intend to get work done. I planned to go there mid-October, during what I knew would be one of the busiest seasons of the year. I knew that I would need to rest while getting ready to release my new book.
So I went, and I found myself doing a different kind of resting.
My first day there, I felt like a high-pressure balloon entering a low pressure environment.
I didn't even realize I was so stressed out until I entered a place of unhurried peace —and my soul was in the opposite state. The pressure was coming from within me, ready to burst. So I took a walk to acclimate myself.
The Passionist nuns who run the monastery believe in practicing the art of being present at every stage of the Passion of Jesus Christ's crucifixion. I thought: since I was there, why not try the same?
One of the walking paths on the property has the stations of the cross set up to meditate upon, and there was one station in particular that stuck out to me. I stood in front of the picture, imagining myself at that very scene where Jesus was surrounded by weeping women who loved Him. He was holding up the cross with one arm, and the other arm was outstretched to them, as if to stop them from stopping Him as He made His way to be crucified.
And as I entered the scene in my mind, I stood there with the women and I asked, "Why are you doing this?"
And He answered,
"If you don't let Me go before you, then all My work is for nothing."
If I don't know how much You love me,
then my work is wasted.
If I don't let You go before for me,
then Your work was wasted.
I've discovered that there a million ways to be a successful writer and artist. There are blog posts and plans written by strangers who have tread the path before me, and they remind me that no one will buy my work unless I do "x, y, and, z." It’s incredibly overwhelming.
But as I sat in solitude with the Lord this week, I was reminded that there’s always enough time to do the work of my heart. That fear and hurriedness always comes when I feel like I am on my own. That the dreams planted in my heart were meant to be blessings, not burdens.
While on this retreat, the Lord spoke this verse into my heart:
Don’t put your life in the hands of experts
who know nothing of life, of salvation life.
Mere humans don’t have what it takes;
when they die, their projects die with them.
Instead, get help from the God of Jacob,
put your hope in God and know real blessing!
Psalm 146:3-5 (MSG)
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to seek counsel from someone who has the wisdom to guide us in our pursuits. But there’s something to be said about abandoning comparison and laying our dreams at the feet of God, trusting that He takes care of our hearts and points us in the direction we need to go.
In fact, we don’t need to ask Him to make a way for us because He’s already done it. All we must do is listen and follow.
"Let me go before you, and I will show you which path to take. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
(paraphrase from Matthew 11:28)
For many years, I’ve believed that Jesus died for our sins and redeemed us to be reconnected to God the Father.
But I’m learning these days that Jesus is our Overcomer not just in death, but in life.
Through our greatest fears.
In pursuit of our most heartfelt dreams—
—He is already making the way for us when we walk with Him.
And it makes me wonder: How many of us walk on paths that the Lord has gone before us and pointed the way? How often have we let hurriedness and pressure determine a more "secure" way to fulfill our dreams?
As you consider that, here are some questions to ask your own heart:
Do I let comparison and pressure choose my next steps —which usually involve hiding away or frantically running ahead?
Or do I simply walk in step with Jesus, the One who is my Overcomer in this life and the next?
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.