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30 Days of Rest: Day 29

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At a high school graduation party last May, I was visiting with my daughter and a few of her friends while distractedly craning my neck to look around the room and see who else I knew at the party. I didn’t know that many people so I kept looking around to see who I was going to visit with next. My attention was brought back to the adorable/funny/wise/honest conversation happening between the girls all around me.

“Oh my gosh,” I told the girls, “I was looking around this room to see who else I wanted to talk to and then I realized there is no one I would rather be visiting with then you guys and I almost missed my chance.”

One of the girls said, “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

Then I told her that the nicest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about her is when my daughter said, “Sometimes I get so scared and worried about my generation running the world and then I remember Willa and I know we are going to be okay.”

These. Girls.

Before my sabbatical, I was out looking, working, seeking, fixing, improving, pursuing, striving for what was next. I thought I could name what I wanted and that it was up to me to go out and get it.

This concept of labeling the way my needs should be met is possibly one of the most subtle and powerful enemies of rest.

When I get this…
As long as I still have this…
If only she would say this…
If only he hadn’t done this..
My life would be perfect if this…
I could be happy if this…
If only I was better at this…
If only I had done this differently…
If only they thought like this…

There wasn’t any space between the awareness of my needs and my attempts to meet those needs. Imagine that feeling you get when you want to know what the weather will be like this week or who that actress is that you can’t quite place. You check your phone, right? You google the answer. We aren’t used to not getting the relief of the instant solution. That is the tension I stayed in last year. I would have the almost primal urge to get my fix, to scratch that itch and yet, I knew that scratching would only make it itch more.

Sometimes I can tell what I need and it is up to me to meet that need. I am hungry so I eat. I am tired so I take a nap. I am overwhelmed so I take a walk. I need a clean towel so I do laundry.

But if I say I am hungry and the only thing that will satisfy me is a steak dinner then I miss everything in my life that could nourish me because it isn’t what I labeled as the thing that would meet my need.

This is also true with relationships, success, wealth, and community. When we determine that something outside of ourselves is the only missing piece to our complete puzzle, we give it power that it can’t deliver.

Assigning who will meet our needs and how those needs will be met makes us feel like we are in control. Like we could be better, happier, at peace if only someone else would do their part. I spent decades of my life living that way. I could fill in the blanks about and tell you each of the things that I have believed at one time or another would complete me. I got a lot of them. They never quite did the trick. They might have brought some good things into my life but they also brought hard things and left me wanting for new things each time.

But the real point of this post is not about about what you label why you shouldn’t label (its human nature, we are all going to do it) it is about what you miss when you label.

The next time you find yourself thinking, “If only this,” consider looking around and seeing if there is any other way or form your need might be getting met and setting that label free.