Running late, pressed to respond to texts, getting kids to and from practices and school, working, head in my phone, saying “uh-huh” to my family when I don’t event know what they’ve asked or said – much to my chagrin, this had become the norm. Even my sweet family’s subtleties in trying to explain this to me had not gotten through to my heart. Defensiveness, excuses, justification, and even laughing it off had been a way for me to escape admitting something needed to change. Until…
After a typical chaotic morning in our home, I was tackling errand #3 of the day. There was just enough time to sneak in a “quick trip” to the grocery store before picking up my middle daughter for a date. Then my phone rang and I decided to sneak in a “quick chat.” I was almost finished with my conversation, so I decided to use the self-check out at the store instead of rudely being on the phone while in a regular line. How thoughtful, right? We said our good-byes and I began unloading my bags into the car. Because my husband and I recently adopted a new budget app, I needed to enter the amount. The problem was that I could not remember how much I spent or where I put the receipt. Then it dawned on me – I didn’t have a receipt because I walked directly out of the store without paying for a single item in my cart! All I could imagine in that moment was the Wal-Mart SWAT team coming after me – an innocent, scatterbrained mom, who wasn’t trying to steal anything, but much more on the verge of losing her mind. I walked back into the store, commenced explaining the embarrassing situation to the self-check out clerk, hurried back outside to get my groceries, and go through the motions once again – this time paying, of course.
Being everywhere was keeping me from being anywhere.
Somewhere deep inside I didn’t want to admit how absentminded I had become. In the short moments leaving the store, I acknowledged the need to take this seriously. But honestly, another part of me was busting up laughing that I had done something so ridiculous. The next day, as I relayed the details to my sweet husband, there was no laughter, not even a giggle or a crack of a smile. He began the painful process of exposing me to the distracted, preoccupied person I had become. He was right…and so was my 13-year-old when she unknowingly responded the same way. I was listening…especially when I started playing out the more drastic scenarios in my head…scatterbrained and driving a car is not a good combination when lives are at stake.
My eyes needed to see what my family was seeing. God brought things further into focus when a couple of days later I stumbled on a passage in a book I had read a few months previous. Shauna Niequist, in Bread and Wine, reflects on a trip she took to Mexico where she was practically forced to be away from the noise of technology, the busy schedules, and embrace slow-paced, quiet days. She describes the amazing convenience of technology – the clever ability to blend family time, time with friends, and vacation with work and commitments all because of a smart little phone – this ingenious device, which “frees” us to be connected to everyone all the time. But she realized the following and it resonated with me to my very core. “What I found in Mexico is that being everywhere was keeping me from being anywhere, from being in any one very particular place. All of a sudden, the silence – that blessed, glorious silence, strange silence – let me be completely in one place.” She goes on to say, “it created in me an appetite for silence that I hadn’t tasted for years.” Then she gave me one final blow that brought me to tears when she said, “How valuable it is to live the life in front of you.”
She was describing something I desperately wanted. I wanted the silence. I wanted the noise and chatter in my head to stop. I wanted to be fully present with my family, to look people in the eyes and listen, and resist the temptation to respond to those non-urgent distractions disguised as emergencies. And I’m not necessarily blaming the phone, the schedule, or my commitments – these are my responsibilities to handle and keep in perspective. Sometimes I like to presume I have less control and blame life for happening to me–all the while giving me the excuse to stay preoccupied all the time. And while escaping and getting away is absolute bliss, the bank account and work schedules don’t always allow for that extreme solution.
We live in a world teeming with non-urgent things that rob us of opportunity, don’t we?
So, while I’m not perfect at this process of change (I still get the “you’re doing it again” stare), I am finding ways to slow down, be present, and not shoplift groceries at Wal-Mart. My response to texts are sometimes slow, my phone is often on silent during the evening hours after everyone is home, time in the car means intentional conversations, I’m engaged in what’s happening around me, and I am searching out silence. As much as I wanted to resist the need to take this all so seriously, there is something amazing that happens when we are willing to take to heart what others see in our lives.
Luke 10 cautions me in a similar way:
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'”
I often wonder if Martha looks back with regret realizing that life was happening in front of her and she missed it. We live in a world teeming with non-urgent things that rob us of opportunity, don’t we?
Some questions I’ve had to ponder and hope you will too if you find yourself struggling: What things are creating chaos and keeping you distracted? Is it a phone, is it your kid’s phone, is it your schedule, is it a lack of awareness? What are those things for you? What would those closest to you say about you in this area? Is there anything you need to ask God to reveal? I encourage you to consider areas where change needs to take place and begin living the life in front of you…right now.
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Image credit: Sergio Monsalve, Creative Commons