Temporarily Closed for Spiritual Maintenance
Over the last couple weeks I have been really grappling with what to do. You may be asking “What about?” and the answer is, everything. As a person who has a severe mood disorder that presents with intense symptoms of depression including but not limited to over sleeping, irritability, fatigue, overeating, apathy, restlessness, unrealistic expectations, loss of interest in things I love, isolation, weight gain, etc. It has felt like I have had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I remember when I first publicly shared about my mood disorder a lot of people were in disbelief. And it makes sense because I am good at covering it up. I tend to lean into work and busyness in hopes that my high level of productivity will make up for all the symptoms I am experiencing.
That habit stops here. I noticed that I have been doing this ever since I got my first job at 15 and especially over this last year as me and my family have been coping with grief. I am really good at taking on a lot and pushing myself to the brink of insanity. What I am learning is I have to eliminate hurry from my life. I would love to take credit for that saying but I learned it from John Ortberg in his book Soul Keeping. John talks about his conversations with Dallas Willard and one of the keys to having a healthy spiritual life is to eliminate hurry. As a wife, mom of two, and a writer I initially rolled my eyes. Clearly this old white guy has no idea what he is talking about. But, truthfully I became defensive because I knew he was right. I cover up my disorder and all of my pain and insecurities with hurry. I sign up for things that I know will only create stress, I set unreasonable expectations for myself, and I aim for perfection in just about everything I do. A great recipe for disaster.
In setting off on this new venture to write my first book and be a speaker, I did all of those things. I set the unreasonable expectation of having my book ready for editing by the end of this month- which meant I was writing it in less than a year, a totally unrealistic goal. But, I convinced myself that I am a high performer and yeah I have a lot going on like staying home full time with my two kids, coping with intense grief, and managing all the other demands of life but I can do this. I realized part of my DNA is loving a challenge. I enjoy intense workouts, triathlons, games, and anything that creates a high pressure situation where I have to perform. And what I have done is let that creep into my everyday life. Not healthy and not a tendency that helps me live well with my mood disorder.
I noticed over this last year I have done a really good job at building my social support. I have a great group of friends who are there for me in hard times, challenge me when I need it, and are there to do life together. What has been lacking this year is intentional spiritual practice. I want to recognize that I know I have a very diverse group of people who have very different views of spirituality. And you know what? That’s okay. I do believe in Jesus and I follow the words of the Bible. But, that doesn’t mean that I am so thick headed that I don’t believe other people will have different views and practices in their spiritual life. That is the world we live in. What I have noticed is that so many tenants of the most common spiritual practices are very similar; mainly it is to love others. This might sound all mushy and sentimental but truthfully from the great Pat Benatar, “love is a battlefield.” Not that we need to battle others we need to battle our own imperfections. We have to constantly put ourselves in check so that we can set aside our crap tendencies to be a source of love and light in this world. And that is what I believe we are all responsible for no matter what your spiritual worldview is.
What became crystal clear over the last few weeks was the need for rest. I have been leaning into my relationship with God, delving into the Bible, and reaching out to my arsenal of support people. And you know what? From all the things I had been reading, my prayers, the holy spirit, friends, and a complete stranger who prayed over me at church, it was revealed to me in all these mediums that I need to take some time to rest and rekindle my relationship with God. I know this sounds super hokie to some and I even feel a little uncomfortable writing this because honestly, who says that?
What I know is that I have left God out of most of my life. As a clinician I try to intellectually rationalize everything. Not to mention I still have a lot of resentment and anger toward God about all the heartache I have experienced in my 32 years on this Earth. What I am learning is that I would be at a loss to not share this part of my path, especially since there will be an entire section in my book about spirituality. I have to be transparent about my spiritual practice and my relationship with God and all that goes with it. This is important to include it in my work to help others do the same in cultivating a meaningful spiritual life. I know not everyone will agree with my spiritual perspective and that’s okay. What’s important is that I lead by example in cultivating my spiritual practice even if it doesn’t match everyone else’s.
What I have discovered is that so much of the clinical best practice that I hold on to is also biblical. If the Bible isn’t your cup of tea that’s okay but I do encourage you to keep reading and contemplate on some of this. In a study I have been doing by Priscilla Shirer, called Discerning the Voice of God, she speaks a lot on obedience. It made me think of my pet peeve when people say “pray about it.” So often prayer is used as this one size fits all solution that has very little follow up and acts as a superficial bandaid. What I have personally learned in this phase of life is that prayer is essential and part of how we demonstrate obedience to God. But, that doesn’t mean I just get to petition God for the things I want and go on my merry way. What prayer really means is to be in tune with ourselves so that we can call ourselves on our own biases while also being open to what the Spirit of God is placing on our hearts. When we need to “pray about it” we need to have individual prayer while also leaning on those we trust for supportive prayer. Our prayers are empty unless we are willing to fill our days with deliberate action to die to ourselves and the crap story we play in our head about why we can or cannot do something. We must have obedience to God in such a way that allows us to have keen awareness about what keeps us from having a fulfilled life. That includes self destructive behaviors like being in debt, over eating/drinking, self righteous behavior, and unhealthy communication patterns. I could dive into a lot of this but for the sake of brevity I will save that for another day.
For me, I am going to take a breather. It has been made very clear that I use busyness and unrealistic expectations as a shield. I am taking a breather to practice what I preach. To let go of the things that are adding unnecessary stress. That includes my self imposed deadline of finishing my book, wanting to be everything to those I serve in my work, and the notion that I can outwork my mood disorder. I am going to focus on rest. This doesn’t mean kicking my feet up while I binge Netflix. It means that I am going to intentionally recuperate by leaning into spiritual practice and getting my mind and body back to a healthy state. To do that I need to hit pause on my work. I feel overly privileged in doing this, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it either.
As I wrap this up, I encourage you to evaluate the things in your life that are unnecessarily adding stress. I want you to look at how your personal tendencies impact your life and those around you. If you too are looking to actively rest I highly encourage you to read the book “Rest” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. We don’t have control over anything except for ourselves. When we can recognize how much power we have by honing our own tendencies and leaning into spiritual practice and active rest that’s when we become a truly powerful source for good in this world.
Until next time,