So, we’re thinking of starting a commune. It would just be us and another family from our small group. Shared expenses, shared responsibilities, shared life.
What’s that? You think I’m joking? No, actually we’ve run the numbers, envisioned the reality, given it serious thought.
Why? Because our conversations are like a broken record.
Me: “I’m just so overwhelmed. Life is overwhelming. I’m so over being so overwhelmed.”
Tim: “I don’t have time to get everything done. I’m always out of time. I don’t even have time to talk about this. What time is it, anyway?”
Our dear prospective commune friends have managed to retain a little more composure and dignity while the McLennans dangle over the Cliffs of Insanity by a rapidly fraying rope, but they can relate. Life is overwhelming. Time is tight. That which is demanded of us seems to far outweigh our resources.
The answer, of course, is radical change. Can’t get everything done? Schedule every minute of every waking hour! Feeling sluggish because of poor eating? Go vegan and start training for a 5k! Not experiencing abundant life in Christ? Trash your TV, read your Bible three times a day, and get up an hour earlier to pray!
Eh-hem. Okay, maybe not.
A few weeks ago I confessed that life has begun to feel like a desert – dry, barren, desolate. I’m out of energy, thirsty for change, and in way over my head. How did I get here?
The answer to that question is multi-faceted (see my first shot at conquering it here), but I’m certain part of it is this:
I tried too hard to get out.
There must be quicksand in this desert, because the harder I struggle to break free, the deeper I sink. All those radical changes I just mentioned? I’ve tried them. They helped for a time, but when I fell back into old habits (an inevitable symptom of the human condition, I’m afraid), the weight of failure just pushed me farther into the hole.
At small group last week, while tossing around more thoughts about communal living, I remembered something important:
It doesn’t matter how hard I strive or how radically I change my circumstances, real change happens individually, in the heart, by divine means.
How easy it is to forget that last part – the divine part – even though I’ve learned it the hard way before. How many times do I need to be reminded that I’m The Little Engine Who Couldn’t?
I can’t wrestle myself into being more compassionate, patient, or joyful. I can’t will the anxiety, frustration, and resentment out of my heart. Strict schedules and rigid discipline have never brought peace to anyone’s soul. Only God can do that.
A few days ago, at the invitation of my friend Allie, I began reading Sacred Rhythms, by Ruth Haley Barton. Barton asks us to put ourselves in the place of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who cried out to Jesus for mercy. Jesus, hearing the man, called him over and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”
What a question! Alison, what do you want me to do for you? I spent a solid hour with those words yesterday, and my fumbling response boiled down to one earnest request:
Jesus, I want you to change who I am.
I didn’t ask for more time, fewer responsibilities, or less stress. I didn’t ask for success, encouragement, or comfort. I asked for change. Make me more like you! my heart cried. And with that plea, I felt my feet wriggling free of the quicksand – not in an effort to rescue myself, but in desperation to get closer to him.
Perhaps that’s the path out of this desert – remembering our Rescuer. He led grumbling Israelites by cloud and fire, fed despondent Elijah with bread and water, appointed a plant to shade resentful Jonah.
I’m yours, Jesus. Lead the way.