As you read this, I will be in Germany for a friend’s wedding. I am leaving my laptop behind and sticking to pen and paper for my writing. I hope to return with some tales of my travels and a spiritual insight or two that we all can share.
As I prepare to leave, I find myself overwhelmed with trying to get all the things ready for my trip, all the things I need to do for this week, and all the things I would be doing next week if I were not on this trip. I often hear that it is such a hassle to get away that some people don’t even want to take a vacation. Project: Time Off reported that “More than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused in 2015. This adds up to 658 million unused vacation days.”
The feeling that there is simply too much to do, so I can’t take vacation, echoes what I often hear about spiritual direction. “I know it would be good for me, but I just don’t have the time.” And when I was working I a congregation and my son was young, I found myself in very much the same situation.
The solution for finding time for God, or finding time to exercise, or finding time for reading was always to get up an hour or two earlier. But I was exhausted. That extra hour of sleep was the difference between getting through the day with a relatively clear mind or possibly falling asleep at the wheel with my child in the backseat.
I recognize now that the “solution” to finding time for one important self-care moment was never really to steal it from another important self-care moment. Instead I started to focus and pray about the word enough. Sleep kept me healthy and sane, so I started there. What was “enough” sleep for me, and how could I get it? If that meant that my time for spiritual practice had to be reduced, well, then that was “enough” too.
I have sometimes told young parents that while their children are young might not be the best time to start a rigorous Bible Study practice. Read a short devotional, sit in silence for 5 minutes, lock the bathroom door and take a hot shower with God while someone else watches the baby. Eventually that child will become more independent (I swear, it will happen!) – and then your brief moments with God might not be “enough.” That is the time to take on more.
This was applicable to me in a work situation as well. I was privileged to be able to leave a job that I enjoyed, but which was becoming too much. Not everyone can “take a pause” from well-paying employment and devote themselves to a small business and writing that doesn’t quite pay the bills. I guess the good thing for me was that my ministry job was pretty low-paying as well. We had already learned how to live on “enough,” so we have been able to make this new way of life succeed too.
Long ago we defined “enough” as being less than keeping up with the Joneses. When I see my friends’ McMansions, I remind myself that our version of enough gives me freedom to write and travel and do spiritual direction even before it pays the bills. And by the grace of my father’s bequest I have my new toys too. I would never say that we are suffering.
Which leads me back to Germany. My husband is performing the wedding, and thanks to gifts, my son and I get to join him for the adventure. Even when time and money seem scarce, my life is overflowing with much more than enough. And I am on my way again….
What would “enough” look like for you? What is the most important self-care item for you, around which all your other “enoughs” must fit? Is now a good time to increase or decrease the time you devote to your spiritual journey? What gifts do you receive that help you feel like you have even more than enough?
Sometimes these questions can be hard to answer on our own. If you need someone to walk the journey with you, consider whether you have one hour per month for spiritual direction with Openings: Let the Spirit In. Almost everyone finds that is just enough to find deeper freedom and joy.