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While looking through an old journal yesterday, I came across this statement I had written at the top of one page, dated February 8. The year was 2005.
Below that statement, I listed out what I thought would be true of me if my soul were at rest (here are the answers I gave in 2005):
- I would enjoy my daughters more completely (they were 13 months old at the time)
- I would not hold John to unrealistic expectations (we had been married 3 and a half years by then)
- I would not dwell on all my life is lacking
- I would like myself
Yesterday, I asked this question on Twitter. Here are some of the responses:
If my soul were truly at rest, I would . . .
- worry less.
- dream bigger and expect more.
- make peace with disappointment.
- be peaceful without anxiety.
- love more people.
- smile more.
- create and risk more.
- stand taller and hold my head up more.
- think of others before myself.
- breathe deeper.
- notice more.
Then, I asked on Facebook, too. Here are about a third of the responses:
I’ve thought about this question over the past 24 hours a lot, and I’m pleased to say I would answer it differently now. I don’t feel pressure to enjoy my girls like I did then. I don’t hold John to impossible standards – at least, not to the extent I did before. Sometimes I think about what I’m lacking, but not in the same way.
And now? I like myself. Sure, I get on my own nerves sometimes. But in general I pretty much like myself.
In those areas for the most part, my soul is at rest. Today, I would answer that question like this:
- If my soul were truly at rest, I would laugh more, I would stop making so many lists, I would be able to sit still for longer periods of time, I wouldn’t make decisions out of fear.
I have experienced soul rest more completely now at 36 than I did at 28. I hope that continues to be true of me as I get older.
As I read your answers on Twitter and Facebook and as I thought about my own, the phrasing started to grate on me – to ask if your soul were truly at rest implies it never is. It keeps soul rest somewhere out there, beyond my ability to grasp. It could even bring shame and discouragement to consider all the ways your soul isn’t at rest and all the peace you lack as a result.
So I decided to re-phrase the statement.
I would rather take out the “if” altogether and replace it with “when” –
When my soul is truly at rest, I laugh more, I stop making so many lists, I am able to sit still for longer periods of time, I don’t make decisions out of fear.
Do you feel the difference there?
It feels kinder now – possible, livable, hopeful. It feels true.
Asking myself questions that matter are important for my own spiritual growth. But equally important is the tone I use when I ask the questions. I want to cast a hopeful vision, not weigh myself down with despair.
When Jesus invited the weary to come to Him in Matthew 11, it was an invitation to wear the light burden of love, not the heavy burden of shame.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30, Message
Instead of finishing this statement: If my soul were truly at rest . . .
I would stop searching.
I would take the risks I’m afraid of.
I would stop worrying.
Now, let’s finish this one: When my soul is truly at rest . . .
I stop searching.
I take risks.
See the difference? I think it matters.
What about you? What is true of you when your soul is at rest? Let’s practice remembering in the comments: When my soul is truly at rest, I . . .
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