So, I sorta got attacked with other things, so here’s a post from a blog I follow.
This summer I got empty.
I wasn’t tired.
I wasn’t drained.
I didn’t melt down or burn out.
I got empty.
And it was awesome.
Since Stuff Christians Like started in March of 2008, things have been busy. I wrote a million words on four different blogs. I published three books. I contributed to half a dozen other books. I gave 100 different speeches across the country.
In order to do that, I had to turn my head into an idea factory. I had to train myself to see content all day. I had to learn to ask, “Is that a post right there? Is that conversation something for a book? Is that experience something for a speech?” Over and over again, I hustled and sprinted and crafted word after word, idea after idea.
And I loved it. Figuring out how to keep a blog fresh and creative is a fun challenge. Starting a new blog is fun. Writing books is fun. And with each word I wrote, I learned how to figure out new challenges. How do you write a Christian satire book and then jump shelves to the business career section? How do you write a 2 minute speech that has to be funny, insightful and complete? How do you be funny on command without being fake?
I’d throw my head at each new challenge that came along and most of them I could figure out. Some I failed, some went well, but every one had one thing in common: I would eventually figure it out.
But this summer, I decided to take a break when I went on vacation. In the past, I’d lie to myself. I’d say, “I’m an idea guy! Coming up with new ideas is how I like to relax!” Then I’d sit on a chair on the beach and scribble down new blog ideas. Or I’d read a book about self-improvement or branding or hustle. Then I’d come home from vacation and express shock that I did not return refreshed.
This year, instead of doing that, I just got empty. I stopped writing down ideas. I stopped trying to “get ahead” by deleting emails in my inbox on vacation. I didn’t do anything but play with the kids on the beach and hang out with my wife. I got empty. And into that emptiness I felt like God had some space to whisper again.
Maybe I’m the only one who has a loud life, but I have my doubts. Chances are you’re digesting more content than you ever have before right now. You’ve got books and blogs and Twitter and Facebook and a thousand other sources of information in your head. You’ve got family commitments and work commitments and meetings and reminders and tasks and activities and soccer for your kids and church commitments and … it’s exhausting.
We spend an extra month at work more than people in past generations did. Let me repeat that.
You and I found a way to work an additional month every year. I put that stat from a Harvard economist in my book Quitter because it’s terrifying.
We are busy and loud and, if we could just figure our lives out, things would be better.
That was what I thought as I sat on the beach this summer, but something was bothering me. Something wouldn’t leave me alone, day after day.
I couldn’t figure out the ocean.
Every day, the beach was different. The tide came up to a different place each day. High tide and low tide were never identical from one day to the next. The waves were never the same each day. The tidal pools shifted and moved each day. I tried as hard as I could to predict where to put our chairs, based on figuring out the day before, but each new day was different.
I couldn’t figure out the ocean.
Standing there on the shore one afternoon, it hit me. I didn’t see handwriting in the sand or God’s words in the clouds, but it felt like he reminded me of something simple. I felt like he poked into my heart and said,
“You think the ocean is difficult to figure out? You think the ocean is complex? I put my breath in man. Quit trying to figure yourself out. Quit trying to figure out how life works. Just be with me.”
In other words, “Be still and know that I am God.”
I like action. I like motion. I like productivity and effectiveness. Stillness is not sexy to me. It is not something that comes easy to me. Emptiness is something I fight, not invite.
And yet, there it was and there it is. An invitation to be still and quiet and present to the big things that a big God is unfolding in his way at his time at his pace.
I love to write. I love to speak. I love the meager bit of talent God’s given me to share with folks. But I’m learning that when I refuse to be quiet or empty, I miss so many important things. And that, ultimately, “be still” wasn’t a casual suggestion. It was a command. And it’s one I want to obey.
Is it ever hard for you to be still?