I now realize life isn’t just about what I can get done. But it took me years longer than it should have to learn this lesson. Why? Because I allowed no white space—empty space—on my calendar or in my heart. I kept busy because I believed what I chose to do or not do with my time was up to me. And because deep down I felt insecure.
I felt I had to prove my value and worth to the people who knew me during my teenage years. Even after John and I moved a thousand miles from our small hometown, an inner voice urged me on: “I’ll prove to them I didn’t make a mistake by becoming a teen mom. I’ll show them young moms can be good moms and can go on to do great things.” Who was them? Simply the people I felt I’d disappointed: classmates, teachers, and friends.
I felt I had to prove to my mom I was a good housekeeper. When I was young and had a messy room, she’d always tell me, “I’d hate to see what your house will look like when you’re an adult.” So, as an adult, those words echoed in my head any time dishes filled the sink or dirty clothes littered the laundry room floor.
I also felt driven to prove myself to my biological father. I didn’t know anything but his name, yet with the Internet I knew that could change. I suspected if I typed his name in a search engine, I could find him. Yet for years I didn’t allow myself to do that. Why? Because I had something to prove to him too—that I was worthy to be his daughter. I told myself I had to reach two goals before I looked for my father: lose weight (and become super-model thin) and get a book published. Rejection seemed less likely if I was both beautiful and successful. I never admitted this, of course, but these feelings of insecurity kept me pushing forward and wouldn’t allow me to rest.
During this time of striving and constantly trying to prove myself, God brought a verse to mind. I saw it in books. I heard it in sermons. I received it cross-stitched on a small wall hanging from my stepmom: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
I put the wall hanging in my bathroom as a reminder that I needed to pause, but I couldn’t force myself to actually be quiet before God. After all, what if I allowed myself to be still, to be vulnerable, and I didn’t measure up? I believed the lie that what I did mattered more than who I was…even to my heavenly Father
Instead I stayed busy and ignored the ache in my soul. I made my Bible reading time something to accomplish. If people needed help at church or a babysitter or for some task to be done, they could count on me. After all, if I wasn’t doing all these wonderful things, how would people see me? What would my house look like? How would my kids turn out?
My full calendar made me feel accomplished; it made me look important, needed, valuable. But the cost was great. I was stressed. I was overwhelmed. I was tired all the time. My shoulders grew weary from the high level of expectations, especially my own.
I’m not the only one who struggles with doing too much. Lately, I’ve noticed we’ve changed our vocabulary in this country. When someone asks how we’re doing, instead of answering, “Fine,” we say, “Busy.” Yet if we don’t have time for a bubble bath, then we often don’t have time for God.