In Finding Spiritual Whitespace, chapter 1, Bonnie Gray ends with a question:
What is your heart’s desire for whitespace most reflected in?
a blank page
a white canvas
a quiet silence
a cool, dark night
an open field
an intimate corner of a cafe
I sat for a timeless moment drinking in the beauty of each of these suggested things, testing them against a very quiet voice, my voice (not God’s still small voice), and waited. Finally it came, “those are all good, but what I crave is an open day with no structure.”
The funny thing was, I was writing this on such a day. Sabbath Saturday. I suppose it was affirming, but the thing that shocked me was how deeply I felt the need. I’m craving a year of Sabbath Saturdays. Should I block them off? Maybe, sundown Friday to sundown Saturday: make no plans ahead?
A space for whatever comes. No stress. Creative time, serendipitous time, family time, down time, free…
Then I remembered.
Back in 2004, I discovered Thin Within in the window of a storefront that boasted free books to swap, encouraging literacy in New Haven, CT. Subtitled A Grace Based Approach to Lasting Weight-loss, it drew me like a magnet. I flipped through and saw Bible verses on every page. I was still in the baby focused (okay, she was 4) stage where I spent no money on myself, but this was free! I took it home.
I’d been trying for a week to follow what a friend at Bible study had told me about the South Beach diet: you can eat chocolate covered almonds! But when we got back together and I asked her, like how many? She said oh, 6 or so and I realized I’d scarfed 20. That’s when I realized I had a problem.
This book? It was a God-send. It was grace, for my need. I lost 40 pounds that fall, delightfully. I didn’t stress to follow rules, I read when I felt the need to read more, half a chapter, a bit at a time. Listening to my body, listening to God. Most of the 40 has stayed off, but I do forget to listen, let stress or anxiety overwhelm me. So, the need for stress-less unplanned days.
When I was reading Thin Within, I got to a chapter that asked what lies I was believing and how that affected me. There was a blank chart for me to fill in. As if? Okay, so I did. There was a space for three things (which now makes me wonder if there’d been space for more would I have filled in more?), and one of the things I wrote was:
“There’s no time for me.”
After all, I was constantly watching over a baby, then a toddler, now a preschooler. A single child. That means no ready playmate at home, so mom is called in to play and she, being a late thirty-something, has forgotten how to play, has to relearn play, has to follow the child’s direction…at least that was how my situation was tending. I was laying down my life, right?
The consequence of the lie that there was no time for me was that I didn’t recognize and plan for me time when it came. I had filled up any free time with non-helpful things. I didn’t have a plan for when my free time came.
So then I resolved to grab my little journal, the one with a quote and a margin to write in.
The free time came and I recognized it and for ten minutes while she played by herself I sat nearby and read and wrote my own thoughts. Pretty soon the ten minutes grew. I was getting a half hour to read and write and pray!
I started to realize that I didn’t recognize the time because I couldn’t schedule it, but God could provide the free time I needed, and I could thankfully receive it. I could rest in his provision. I could trust God to be in control, even of my time and things that happened in my day.
It’s been ten years since that blinding insight and I’ve apparently had to relearn it many times, had to see the consequence of forgetting (I snap something ugly at my loved ones when I’m under the clock and unable to control them. I hate that. My only way out, as I see it, is to remember that God can be in control, better than me. His strength is so much better than my weakness!), and had to pray daily for God’s love to fill me so that I could love my people with his love.
Provision of time.
God will provide.
God will meet me in my need, and will restore my soul.
All praise and thanks to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
Linking up with Bonnie for the book club here.