One year ago I had this pretty huge epiphany that catapulted a DIY project to simplify my life.
My circle of friends.
My marriage expectations.
My parenting style.
My to-do list.
My self-induced pressures.
My definition of success.
I was laying in my bed one night picturing this long tunnel of a life that never seemed to get easier, or more restful, or less stressful, or less complicated, or less distracted. And this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach told me this was life – like it or lump it – unless I was prepared to do something about it.
I kept thinking about the conversations I was having with my friends: always saying how busy they are. How stressed out. How tired. Exhausted. How drained.
With every scenario I played over in my mind, I never pictured a to-do list that ever seemed to end. Weeks already feel like a blink, so I didn’t want to get to the point where months – or worse, years – started to feel the same.
I concluded I didn’t want that kind of life – that was not my idea of living.
So I started with the first thing that came to my mind… the only thing I could think to do… the easiest word in the English language: NO. I started saying no to everything and everyone – even the things, the positions and the people I cared about.
Because life is too precious.
Time is too short.
The Kingdom call is too compelling.
Besides, my theory was/still is: if it’s something I really miss, I will find a way to reintroduce it back into my routine. If not, it’s time to let it go.
Well. Guess what happened? I found myself busier. Weird, right? But wait. Not pointless busier. Busier doing things that mattered.
- Instead of watching mindless TV at night, I found myself sending text messages of encouragement to people who had been on my mind that day.
- Instead of wasting time on Facebook, or Instagram, or Pinterest, I found myself praying for people, organizations and ministries that God was laying on my heart.
- Instead of chatting on the phone, writing emails, or sending pointless emoji-filled text messages (even though I do love me some emoji icons), I found myself scheduling coffee, play, dinner and face-to-face dates. Dates, where I could look people in the eyes, hug them, smile and linger, without actually needing words.
When you give up what you think you need so you have to time to build what you really need… here’s what happens:
- You notice how a simple hug has the power to melt protective walls and a guarded heart.
- You notice how a listening ear has far more depth than any power packed and perfectly scripted sermon you could passionately preach.
- You notice that there actually IS enough hours in the day to do things for other people.
- You’re okay to pause the daily to-do list to sit down and have an unplanned quality conversation with someone who needs to vent.
- You can hear the voice of God when he whispers.
- You discern the truth even when your friend lies to your face and says, “I’m totally good. How are you?”
- You see people in a crowded, noisy room of 600 bodies, laughing and pretending like life is one big drama-free party.
- You care way less about the people on the other side of your phone because you’re present and engaged with the people standing right beside you.
You start to understand that people are people, not numbers to fill your pews so you can brag about your congregation size, or your community board, or your PTA committee, or your choir attendance, or your Facebook “friends” list.
You start to comprehend that relationships and people-based communities look an awful lot like working out: hard, messy, sweaty, bloody, unappealing at times, but something that is necessary to living a healthy life that goes the distance. And, uh, sorry people, but working out can’t be “accomplished” in one day, one week or one year. It takes time. It takes hard work. It takes dedication. It takes commitment. And yes, sometimes you will feel inspired, but most days you will have to stick your head down and dig deep for discipline.
If you want to build community, you have to be prepared to make it your lifestyle.
You have to think “way of life.”
You have to think day-to-day.
You have to think long haul.
When you give up what you think you need so you have to time to build what you really need… you find authentic community. You discover belonging. You feel supported. And loved. And valued. You understand what the Bible means when it describes iron sharpening iron. You see Jesus.
You can’t put a price tag on this kind of community.
It’s time to declutter our lives from the meaningLESS so we can fill our lives with the meaningFULL.