It's finally Fall - the best season of the whole year, in my personal (& correct) opinion! The weather has finally shifted and the morning fog has rolled in with the crisper, cooler air and the slightly grayer skies while the leaves change from shades of green to shades that make-up the entire color spectrum. Football has begun, hoodies & sweaters abound, chilly nights make for amazing sleeping weather, the smell of pumpkin-cinnamon-coffee-caramel-cocoa-vanilla-buttercream candles fill my home, and farms all over have turned their land into corn mazes with petting zoos and hayrides for kids and adults alike to enjoy while they roam about with their hot chocolate, donuts, and caramel apples! I cannot even begin to tell you all how much I adore this season! I wait all year long for it and it's gone in a flash but it is, hands down, the most perfect time of the year - all year, every year! Thank you, Lord, for Fall!
But with each new season, so comes a change in priorities. For Anthony, it means more weekends and weeknights where he is busy with youth group activities. At my office, it means different work than we've been doing all Summer and quicker time-frames. For some of you parents out there, it means hectic mornings of rushing kids off to school, evenings filled with quick dinners, packing lunches, helping with homework, and driving your littles (or not-so-littles) all over town to various practices, appointments, and activities. All at once, our Summer priorities are gone and our new Fall ones have taken their place. And, when Winter comes, there will be another change in weather, a brand new atmosphere, unique activities and, yet again, different priorities.
Seasons of earth bring new priorities and what makes these transitions more adaptable and easier to navigate is when we anticipate their arrival and prepare accordingly. So it is in our relationship with God, as well.
A few days ago I listened to a Bethel app sermon by Candace Johnson called "Developing a Strong Core". It was about making sure our foundations (or cores) are strong, healthy, and can sustain weathering in all seasons. The whole thing was a great reminder to just re-evaluate where my priorities are and what God is doing in my life at this moment and what He is getting me ready for in the future. The part that really stuck out to me was when she spoke of a time she met-up with a friend for a walk and how, afterward, she felt really guilty about it. This person was nice, they got along, nothing bad happened, but by taking the time to hangout with that person, she was setting aside the priorities she believed God set for her in that season.
At first, it took me off-guard and I thought "ummm, Candace, pouring yourself into other people is never a bad thing and I can't imagine God would be convicting you of that." She went on to explain that had she been faithful to the priorities that God set for her already, a walk with this, or any other, friend would have been no big deal. But, on this particular day, the time she spent with this person took time away from other relationships and responsibilities that her focus should have been on during that season of her life. She sacrificed the things God was asking of her to do the thing she wanted to do in the moment.
I started thinking about my own life. In my current season, I know God is preparing me for something new and I should be getting ready for it by not blowing off the priorities God has set before me. But, instead, some days I come home and watch Netflix instead of taking care of the CSA produce or doing dishes. Some days, I work on a random project on the computer instead of practicing piano or writing. Some days, I choose to busy myself with unimportant errands or projects instead of spending quality, non-ministry time with Anthony. Some days, I choose scrolling Facebook instead of spending time with God in study and prayer. Then it hit me... most days, I'm so insanely busy helping out at church or doing things others could very-well be doing or focusing on meaningless projects at home that I leave very little time left in my schedule to pour into the things and people that I believe God is asking me to prioritize right now. This, in-turn, plays a part in why I choose to be lazy or unproductive with the little free-time I do have. I'm exhausting myself with jobs I shouldn't be devoting my time to that I end up with no energy to put toward the jobs I should be doing. I'm sacrificing the one to do the other.
Psalm 127:1-2 tells us that building and watching over something that the Lord hasn't commissioned is all in vain. Putting a ton of time & energy into and losing sleep over something God didn't even ask you to do in the first place is just silly and a waste of your time and His. The writer, Solomon, even goes on to say that he provides rest to those He loves which tells me that, if our energy and focus is on the mission God has for us during a season, He will restore us in the process. When we build with Him instead of building just to build, we have purpose and with purpose comes drive.
We definitely shouldn't use that last part of the scripture as an excuse to settle in, get comfortable, or to be lazy in our walk. Let me be clear, He's not promising a luxurious life of rest and relaxation. What He is promising is that when we partner with Him to build what He's actually asked us to build, the unrest within us will cease. Will we still be tired? Absolutely. In fact, if we, as Christians, are not tired from doing the work of the Father, we're missing something. But there's a difference between being tired from working hard toward a goal God has set before you and being in a constant state of weariness, frustration, uneasiness, franticness, and/or resentment. Partnering with God produces faith, growth, restoration, and harvest even though the work can be difficult. Galations 6:8-9 tells us not to be weary in doing good because when we put our efforts toward pleasing the Holy Spirit, we will reap a harvest - but laboring to satisfy the flesh brings destruction.
So, there I was - teetering on the brink of destruction while I took in what Candace Johnson was telling me in the podcast and what I could feel the Holy Spirit saying from deep within my soul - "Slow down. Focus. Get your priorities straight. Seek Me. Listen to Me. Wait for Me. Be with Me."
You see, for years I've been talking about doing certain things and accomplishing certain goals - all of which I believe are things God is wanting and asking me to do. But my constant need to be helpful, stay busy, and have my hands in everything at church distracts me from my mission and, in the end, I am left feeling frustrated by the amount of work I'm doing and disappointed as I watch God's plans slip through my hands yet again. I've been building in vain to receive a bit of instant gratification as a "helper" and a "leader" as opposed to partnering with the Holy Spirit and working on what He's asking me to build. Are the things I'm toiling over at church and in my home good? Yes. But not all of it is the work God is telling me to prioritize in this season which is why I struggle with feeling run-down, frantic, and irritated. Is it work that I could still gladly contribute to occasionally without growing weary if I am faithful to the work I am supposed to be doing first? Yes! But it's not where my focus should be.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace."
I've had to let-go of and walk away from a few things this past week. They are things I care about, but they are also things that often require me to shirk-off my priorities in order for me to make them happen. They are things that, despite how much I care about them, cause me to feel overwhelmed and resentful and negatively affect my overall attitude (sincere apologies to anyone who had to deal with me last week). They had to go. It's time for me to practice responsibility in my faith by no longer laboring in vain because it's what people expect or because it's safe and comfortable. It's time for me to partner with God and build something new with Him and for His glory.
What are you holding onto that God is asking you to let go of? What are the things and who are the people in your life right now that God is asking you to prioritize above others? Do you feel anxious, frustrated, and weary most days? Do you feel like, despite your best efforts to serve our Father, most days it seems like you're drifting further and further away from Him?
I encourage you to sit down with God today, in stillness and prayer, and ask Him to show you why. Ask Him to reveal the things that you're stressing about but shouldn't be and to reveal the people that, while you should still remain friends with them, perhaps you need to distance yourself a little bit - just for a season - because God is asking you to pour that time into another. Ask Him to show you where He wants you to refocus your time and energy. Ask Him what He wants to build with and through you. My prayer for you is that by partnering with Him instead of laboring for yourself or for others, you will find rest for your soul, purpose for your passion and, above all, that He is magnified.