On the rare occasions when I have a chance to stop and look around, I am starting to notice that I made some changes to some very important routines without even realizing that I had done so. I tend to be very routine-oriented. Partly because I have so much going on and partly because the routine is my security; it keeps me focused on the right things. For example, I used to have a habit of going out to our reservoir and walking every day. I used this time to think and pray and listen to music and take pictures. Today, as I took some time to sit and relax, I started looking through some of these old pictures. I have so many shots of clouds and sunsets from where I used to walk and then suddenly, nothing. When did I stop taking pictures? When did I stop seeing the clouds and the trees as being something worthy of paying attention to? For that matter, when did I stop walking every day? From the dates on these pictures, it was at about the same time that I began to purge everything that was hurting me…but I hadn’t realized that I had thrown out some of the good with the bad. For some reason, I had looked at the whole situation as though in order to change things, I had to throw out every piece of myself and start over.
Where did I get this dumb idea? Even Noah was instructed to keep a little bit of this and a little bit of that when God sent the flood. I must have just looked around at everything and said, “Nah, this has to go.” Some difficult things had happened and I just stopped being who I was and then somehow forgot how to be anything for a while. A few very important people in my life had disappointed me greatly and I didn’t know what to think anymore. If I couldn’t trust in the things that I had once trusted in, what was there? It wasn’t the first time that I had made such a “sweep,” but it was the first time I had done so unconsciously. There’s nothing wrong with a little “Spring cleaning,” but we must go about it with purpose. We’ve got to make sure that we aren’t just throwing every bit of ourselves into a pile and torching it under the assumption that we are a lost cause.
Mind you, I’ve had some really bad habits in my life. Some developed as the result of trauma and some were just stupid decisions. But in each case, I knew when it was time to walk away from those things and I did so very deliberately. When you’re hurting, however; sometimes you don’t make rationale decisions. And the pain I was feeling over the last few years blinded me to all the work I had done on myself. I became depressed again and began to throw myself into my work and into a routine that had no real value. It was just something to do to keep myself from sitting around and being sad. It was nothing necessarily bad, but I like to spend my time a bit more productively. To have become caught up in a routine of simply working, eating, and then sitting and watching television instead of being a part of something and getting out there and talking to people and doing things was not ideal. I became very reclusive and my circle of friends became increasingly small. As I retreated into the background, I cut ties with people that had once been very important to me and I increased the distance between myself and some others whose decisions had become a point of contention in our relationships. I was just tired.
One day, I looked around and thought to myself, “Where did everybody go?” I had basically disappeared, but in my mind, I had told myself that these people had abandoned me. If they had cared, they wouldn’t have lost touch. If there had ever been anything real between us, they would never have let so much time pass between calls or messages. Life had become very lonely and it was hard to see how this was all going to work out. I had to have a “come to Jesus” meeting with myself and start looking at the situation for what it was. Some of the distance I had created was necessary. Some of it needed to be fixed…by me. I needed to be the one to step up and reach out if I wanted to repair what was broken. Or, I needed to just let it go and stop brooding about it.
Relationships of any kind have always been a challenge for me. As a child, I didn’t have many good examples of how things should be and I carried this faulty logic into my adulthood. It made friendships difficult and my marriage nearly impossible (while I was in it). I questioned things that I shouldn’t have but didn’t question things that I should have. And that never works out well. Luckily for me, God continues to work on us even when we’re not the best students. He doesn’t give up and He continues to send us lessons. I am very blessed to be able to look back on all of these challenges and have some degree of understanding which will hopefully allow me to move forward and make fewer mistakes in the future. The key is to do so consciously and to pay close attention when I remove things from my life as well as when I add things. God doesn’t want us to be on autopilot. He wants us to purposely stop from time to time and throw out what doesn’t work and then clean up what is working so that He can add what makes sense to add. So, stop trying to give Jesus the wheel. He’ll take it if He needs to.
47 Days of Self-Care is a blogging project that is being published between three different blogs owned by Author & Publisher, Rebecca Benston. Over these 47 days, she hopes to share thoughts and resources for better self-care. You can view related posts at Higher Ground for Life, at the Leading the Follower blog, and on the Higher Ground Books & Media blog.