Whatsoever Things: Finding Peace in the Midst of the Crazy
I’m still here! Really, I am—although I accept that my April “return to blogging” after my three-month hiatus was underwhelming, to say the least.
The past several weeks at This Odd House have been full of end-of-semester teaching responsibilities, end-of-school-year kiddo activities, several speaking engagements, and book editing. Then, in the midst of all the crazy, we’ve also been watching our Old McHenry House seemingly fall down around our ears. An upstairs toilet overflowed for seven hours straight, flooding my kitchen and the basement, damaging floors and ceilings and walls on all three levels. Then our old furnace sprang a leak, shut down completely, and now needs to be replaced. Then Daryl broke multiple windows with his new-found love of baseball. Then we discovered that a pipe must have frozen and cracked when the basement flooded yet again. And so on. You get the idea.
It’s been one of those seasons where I’ve been living in the urgent—putting out fires, scrambling to stay one step ahead—printing off notes just in time to run out the door to a speaking event, stitching Daryl’s costume together in the car on our way to his concert, ordering groceries to be delivered by Peapod at 10 p.m. so I have something on hand to make lunches the next day.
Things are not as they should be.
And yet, the past weeks have also been full of many wonderful moments. For example, last weekend Peter and I spoke to a group of young married couples at a retreat on Gull Lake in Michigan. A peaceful spot. A day with glorious sunshine. And a sandy beach where the kids got to splash in the lake all afternoon.
We spoke on The Life of the Mind from Acts 17, The Life of the Heart from John 11, and Faith in Action from Deuteronomy 6. As application and illustration, we incorporated several of the points from our upcoming book (20 Things I’d Tell My Twentysomething Self).
Ironically, point 7 in the book is “Learn to Rest.” And in one Q&A session, a retreat participant asked us to share how we have managed to do just that. Her comment was something like this: “Rest sounds lovely…but unattainable.” Thankfully, I wasn’t standing up front at the time because I probably would have simply responded with a glazed-over, albeit empathetic nod. Thankfully, my much-wiser husband was fielding questions on his own just then because he actually had something helpful to say. Thankfully, he was able to point them—and me!—to Philippians chapter 4.
He started by challenging our definition of rest. It doesn’t necessarily mean lounging on the sofa with the remote and a bag of pretzels and an ice cold drink. It doesn’t have to mean sleeping until noon or lying on a white sand beach, listening to the waves. It doesn’t even always mean a lack of activity.
What it does mean is peace. In the Greek, eiréné. Wholeness. Contentment. A tranquil state of the soul. Which won’t necessarily come with the click of a button or a flight to Jamaica or a tick on a to-do list. But will only come with a refocus of the mind and heart on whatsoever things are true and right and excellent and worthy of praise.
Then Peter led us through the following prayer of surrender. Of all the things we shared last weekend, several people said that this was the most helpful counsel of all. So I offer it to you. Pray through these points during your morning commute or while you’re washing the breakfast dishes in the kitchen sink. Pray through them while the kids are screaming and fighting and tracking sand through the house. Pray through them in the doctor’s office or the mechanic’s waiting room or the break room at work. And may the God of peace be with you.
Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of hopelessness and failure. In the safety of God’s presence, let yourself feel those things. Breathe deeply. Accept the presence of this emotion, rather than fighting it. Then—carefully and completely—lay it at the foot of the cross.
Then, with the same care and intentionality, pray through each of the following items as well—in this order…
Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of loss and sadness. Lay your grief at the foot of the cross.
Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of fear and anxiety. Lay those concerns at the foot of the cross.
Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of longing or lust. Lay those desires at the foot of the cross.
Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of anger or jealousy. Lay those feelings at the foot of the cross.
Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of stubbornness or judgment. Lay your pride at the foot of the cross
Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of adventure and strength. Lay your courage at the foot of the cross.
Think of any area of your life where you are experiencing harmony and compassion. Lay your joy at the foot of the cross.
Think of any area of your life where you are experiencing wholeness and contentment. Receive the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, and then lay it too at the foot of the cross.