One of my favorite things about God is how He uses everything under the sun for His purposes: to reach His children, bless His children, and protect His children.
The Lord frequently reminds me that I belong to Him, and so do my time and all my “works.” Because I tend to be a little headstrong, God (in my case anyway) likes to use all sorts of unexpected (and surprising!) ways to speak to my spirit. We know from Romans 8:28, “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Over the weekend, a surprise passenger snuck into my car. What resulted was a clear signal for me to slow down and stay focused on my bigger purpose and dreams – and to stop being so hard on myself with too many demands on my time and attention. It’s so easy to get caught up in life’s “rat race” and the challenges that frequently follow; on Facebook we half-jokingly call them “first-world problems,” but the challenges of overscheduling and overcommitting ourselves to a life of busy-ness are all too real.
Monday morning when I got in my car to leave for work, before I backed out of my garage, I heard a noise coming from the cup holder. I looked down and stared in disbelief as the straw in my 2-day-old, half-empty Iced Mocha danced around – with no one and nothing touching the cup. Then I noticed the tiny splashes in the liquid… and the cup rattling around in the holder… and the dark shape of some kind of creature swimming around in my drink. ACK!
I was running a little later than intended, so I quickly grabbed the cup (before I grew further disturbed about what sort of creepy-crawly could be inside), and set it on the shelf in the garage, then quickly left for the office. Within a few minutes, though, I was feeling bad about leaving whatever “it” was drowning in a caffeine cesspool; when I posted the tale on Facebook, friends were eager to know what it was, and whether it survived.
So as lunchtime drew near, I darted home with a plan, my heart pumping and my mind racing. “What could it be? Is it going to make it? WHAT IF IT JUMPS ON ME?!” (Ha ha.) I figured I’d dump the coffee, and the creature inside it, on the driveway, douse it in water to rinse it off and offer it some relief … and hope for the best.
When I pulled into the garage next to the Creature in the Coffee, the tall plastic cup was shifting around on the surface of the shelf. Whatever was inside was going crazy trying to get out. By the time I got out of the car and turned on the camera on my phone, it had stopped moving. I panicked, fearing it had croaked, forgot about the water to douse it in, and hit the “record” button as it began to wiggle again ever-so-slightly inside the cup. I worked up my nerve as quickly as I could, grabbed the cup and dropped it on the driveway hard enough to make the lid come off, but not enough to hurt the creature – assuming it was even still alive. (I did not want to touch it, whatever it was!)
You can see from the video what popped out! A range of emotions and thoughts washed over me as I watched it lick its sticky paws clean, shake off drips of coffee, gather its senses, look around, and then run toward the grass: I was tickled to death, mortified it had been in my vehicle, amazed it had survived for goodness-knows-how-long swimming in watered-down coffee, mortified again, and tickled some more. It was sort of gross, perhaps, but a precious living being nonetheless. I was so relieved I hadn’t accidentally killed it.
In the hours that followed, as I showed the video to friends and coworkers, I thanked God my rush to get to work had not caused the death of the Creature in the Coffee. And I saw a larger, more important metaphor in the making.
Between covering the basics of what I believe needs to be done in my work life, home life, social life, dog mom life, spiritual life and more, I’ve inadvertently gotten sucked back into the “rat race.” I’m neglecting my prayer time and unfortunately my own body as well, as I rarely make time for just “relaxing” and expelling the stress of each day.
“But… everything I’m doing and spending time and energy on is part of what I believe I am supposed to be doing right now,” I argued with myself.
What I realized acutely Monday afternoon is that even when our purpose is clear, even when our steps are well-thought-out and part of a bigger plan for the good, even when we achieve “good results” – and, yes, even when those results glorify God – if it feels like a rat race, if it is exhausting us regularly, if it is sucking us dry of joy, peace, health, or the like… then it may be time to call a spade a spade: Rat race.
What happens when we spread ourselves too thin? Inevitably, for me, it results in a failure to accomplish everything on my to-do list the way I believe each task needs to be accomplished, which leads to feelings of defeat and overthinking my own shortcomings. Before you know it, I’ve dragged myself right out of God’s perfect peace and purpose for my life.
Lucky for me, the Lord isn’t having that. It took me decades to find this peace and purpose, to hear when He calls and discern His message – see His larger plan for me. (Of course, I’m still asking Him for guidance and clarity, and new details are emerging all the time!) I’m so grateful that the Lord I love and serve considers me His own child, and He keeps drawing me back in. He just won’t allow me to wander far, and that’s exactly the way I want it.
A longtime educator, minister, author, and broadcast executive, Sir James Darling of Australia (1899-1995), once wrote: “It requires more toughness to resist the world than to join in the rat-race.”
How right he was! It takes deliberate, consistent, and conscious effort and planning every single day to prevent the demands and distractions of our modern lives to take over. Especially now, with social media alerts, emails, and text messages looming around every corner.
Be deliberate. Be conscious. Be present in each moment. When you slow down and step out of the rat race, you make space to hear God’s voice and feel His presence daily in your life – and that’s worth slowing down for!
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ Let the house of Aaron say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ Let those who fear the Lord say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.”
— Psalm 118: 1-5
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