Earlier, I wrote about the freedoms found in vacation and challenged myself to bottle up the practices that produced those freedoms and institute them into the practical realities of everyday life. I submitted that the peace produced while vacationing was more a matter of discipline than circumstance. I opined, “Be in community with God, with others. Listen to them - really, listen. Give yourself enough grace to not be perfect all of the time. Shut off the buzz of busyness. These are the things I want to bottle up, bring home, and sip from each morning. A toast to the freedom found in the salt life.”
I had written that on a Sunday, upon our return from a beach excursion. By Wednesday, the beach life had blown away, our everydays returned, vision for mindfulness vanished, stress crept in, and tensions rose. In a curt exchange with my wife, she offered, “Why don’t you try and do any of the things you wrote about.” Ouch. A bit judgemental, untimely, and not well received by me. But, true. As the Apostle Paul said, “I have discovered this principle of life - that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.” Stated differently, I can write eloquently (arguably) about the practices of creating space and margin to find peace and purpose. Yet, when it comes to carrying that out, often I fail.
What happened between Sunday (vacation day) and Wednesday (arguing with my wife day)? One word, fear. There is a fantastic song by Zach Williams that says, “fear is a liar.” True. But, what a sliver-tongued liar it is, too often convincing me to do the oppposite of what I know to be right.
I shared that being in community with God and with others was key to finding a peaceful state of mind. One discipline I have for this is to start my day with journaling (prayer) in a quiet space. Trouble is, fear says that there are fifty things to do each day and only 24 hours to do them. Think of how much more productive your day would be if you actually used the 30 minutes you spend with God (“quite abstract”, fear says) and actually do something (“tangible and quantifiable," fear continues). I listen and reduce or omit the quiet space in the morning. Similarly, I have a discipline of finding time and space for other mentors to speak into my life, my leadership (“unproductive, selfish fluff,” fear scoffs). And again, I cancel my time with these life-giving folks to make one more call or answer one more email.
I offered that while success is in the details, perfection is often unattainble and life-draining. I discussed that it is ok, at times, to go off-script. Fear has a name for this, whimsical and lazy (“You are not doing enough,” fear repeats). My kids listen to a rapper named NF. (Ok, I do to. But, only when I run). In the song Why, he raps, “Nothin’ to me’s ever good enough I could be workin’ for twenty-four hours a day and think I never did enough.” That’s fear. That’s perfectionism. That’s a disease that will stifle our souls. As soon as I was back from vacation, I filled my days and my mind with the mountain of “shoulds” I could never complete. And that’s exhausting.
Finally, I stated the obvious in how the “buzz of business” sucks our attention, focus, and life - screen swipe by screen swipe. At the peak of hypocrisy, I literally lecture my kids on their screen time while staring at my phone. Worse, I am stern with them when they respond with, “well, aren’t you on your screen now?” (“You are super-important to the world and your screen time is justified,” fear says. “In fact, you need more time to answer those emails. Send the whining kids to bed and do-more-work. Earn your acceptance”). I succumbed to the lie that margin is realistic for vacation, but I am too important to this world to be able to shut things down and be present in the real world. There’s just too much to do.
Author Bob Goff writes, “Someone once asked me what I would write if I only had six words for my autobiography. Here’s what I came up with: 'What if we weren’t afraid anymore?'” That’s powerful. That’s also the antidote to me practicing what I preach (write). Let’s not be afraid that if we don’t come through, the world will fall apart. Let’s not doubt that God is doing His part. Let’s not succumb to the lie that self-care and mental/spiritual health are virtues to be held by marginal workers, a trite discipline for the soft, something that we’re simply too busy (and too important) to make space for in our lives. Let’s put what matters most first, things of eternal significance. Let’s live like we weren’t afraid anymore. Afraid of being rejected. Afraid of not being enough. Let’s do the hard work of loving others, even (gasp) our enemies. Let’s live like we’re on vacation, appreciating all the beauty, the relationships, the life that we’ve been blessed to live.