Summer invites me to slow down- to settle in to the here and now- to eat the ice cream cone slowly enough that it melts down my hand. So, I usually order ice cream in a dish and eat it fast. I don't say this with pride in my efficiency. It's more of a confession- an admission of guilt for rushing through life too quickly.
Talk to me about charging forward as a warrior and my ears perk up. Tell me about the next new challenge or potential adventure and I'm ready to go. Point out the souls that need to hear about Jesus and I strap on the armor of God and am equipped and available. But staying in the day-to-day, the ordinary? I seem to have trouble with that.
God is calling to my heart, asking me to battle in a different way- to fight to stay in the present moment.
What is the alternative- my default? I spend time in the past, mulling over what was said, what I could have done better, what I missed. It leaves me wistful and sad. I also spend a lot of time living in the future. Instead of being rooted in the now, my eyes are looking ahead to what is next. I think my mind spends the most time about three months out- looking at the looming deadline, the upcoming event, the next thing. Always the next thing.
This is robbing me of the joy of the ordinary day, and I want to battle to grasp hold of it.
Is it possible to live in ordinary time? I believe it is, but I won't make that shift until I take a hard look at what lies beneath my hustle. I am so grateful to author Kate Bowler for revealing it to me through her beautiful writing in Everything Happens for a Reason. Kate writes while eying the clock- knowing that her life expectancy hangs in the balance as she battles stage 4 colon cancer in her mid-thirties. She reflects back on how she lived in the apocalyptic future:
If I were to invent a sin to describe what that was- for how I lived- I would not say it was simply that I didn't stop to smell the roses. It was the sin of arrogance, of becoming impervious to life itself. I failed to love what was present and decided to love what was possible instead. (1)
Becoming impervious to life itself. What a thought… but isn't this what happens when we trade accomplishments for relationships? Life isn't the checked box, the money in the bank, the whirl of activity. Life is seeing the freckles on your child's nose, listening to the dreams of your spouse, laughter, gripping someone's hand when they suffer, serving in the hidden places, breathing in the new morning.
In the Fearless and Free lessons about the third stage of the journey (The Warrior) we focus on Ephesians 6. This is where we find the beautiful passages about the armor of God, and we don't just need this to move forward to lead others to spiritual freedom. We need it in order to fight for the present moment, for the gift of an ordinary day.
In this passage, St. Paul tells us to “put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). The enemy wants us to be consumed by the pain of the past and the fear of the future, and to miss the sacredness of the present. St. Paul challenges us to “hold our ground” (Eph. 6:13), to be rooted right here, right now.
To do this, we need to “stand fast with our loins girded in truth” (Eph. 6:14). I think one of the things that makes us jump into the future is because we don't like aspects of our painful present. This can lead us to buy into lies like “things will never change,” “I can't endure this” and “it's all up to me.” The truth is, God is at work, right now. In this very moment, He is weaving redemption into the tapestry of your life. He is not an absentee father, detained on a trip. He is involved in every detail of your life and nothing escapes His notice. He will never abandon you. He will see you through to the other side. Always moving in the unseen, God's very breath sustains you. He sees your need. He is on it-going before you and preparing the road- so that you can stop and enjoy today.
It isn't all up to you. It isn't all up to me. This means we can rest. We can slow down and return to a childlike rhythm made possible by trust.
This is His invitation to us this summer… to pause and delight in the ordinary. May we grasp hold of this one wild and beautiful life that we've been given and love what is present and right in front of us.
Praying for eyes to truly see,
(1) Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason (New York, NY: Random House, 2018), 156.