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How I dropped out of the rat race (without giving up my life)


Katherine Ruddy

Elizabeth Zuranski - published on 11/05/16

"Panic began to creep in: I'll never get ahead! I'll never be able to catch my breath!"

Merriam-Webster defines rat race as a “strenuous, wearisome, and usually competitive activity or rush.” More often than not, I find my life looks like just that—a rat race.

While I would love to go on a tirade blaming modern culture, with all of its pressures and distractions, such a rant would not be wholly justified; the fact is, the lack of peace in my soul is largely my own fault.

It is a fact of life that life is busy. Over the past few months, when kindly folks ask after my wellbeing and activities, I have found myself expressing hopes that things will “slow down a bit” in the near future. But those “near futures” that I looked forward to came and went, bringing little relief to my harried state. Panic began to creep in: I’ll never get ahead! I’ll never be able to catch my breath!

What? Just listen to me, going on, singing the refrain of modern society!

Apparently I have been letting the rat-race mentality wreak havoc on my interior life. Fortunately, though, I am not a rat; I am perfectly free to step away from this dehumanizing race.

Stepping away need not mean pulling up stakes and moving to rural Montana, spending hours in church every day, or completely renouncing social media. There is a less drastic and more practical way to break out of the modern-mania model: I must simply open my eyes to the love poetry that God has written all around me.

When I was growing up, my siblings and I watched “Thomas and the Magic Railroad.” I do not remember much from the movie, but I do remember a line describing one of the characters. It ran something like this: “She saw magic no one else had time for, like the reflection of a car’s headlights on a rainy day.” The idea stuck with me and I continue to come back to it.

The movie called the poetry magic, but I prefer to call it love. What is life—all of reality actually—if not solid, tangible proof that God loves us and is drawing us to Himself? Even those parts of it that are unpleasant direct us toward Him, our final resting place and ultimate fulfillment. But if those more stern manifestations of His love lead us to Him, how much more should we fly unto Him through the tender ones? How much easier life would be if we could read the love poem written in the daily gifts.

Recognizing these gifts does require a retraining of our mind’s eye. How often I go through my day, focusing on its unsatisfactory aspects! Sometimes it takes a deliberate effort to redirect my thoughts, to make a point of seeing, appreciating, and thanking God for the goodness, beauty, and mercy that He has whispered to me throughout the day. He created the world for me, redeemed it for me, and in every beat of my heart extends His love to me! The thought is so wonderful, it seems pathetic that I am so easily distracted from it. I must constantly refocus.

The very idea of putting something back into focus requires that “something” to be specific. I know that I am incredibly blessed. But while the idea of “blessedness” is very vague, God’s love is concrete. Every flower is a gift for me; fresh baked bread is a gift for me. I am not perfect, my life is not perfect, but my perfect God wants to bring me to perfection. His identifiable blessings, while they do not perfect me immediately, can bring me closer to true blessedness if I let them.

We need to make time for God’s gifts. We need to turn our thoughts away from the daily chaos and concerns every so often. By focusing on the little things—those things that the world takes for granted—we can open our eyes to the reality: We are living in a love story!

These things may be simple, but perhaps that is what our complicated culture needs—a good, solid dose of simplicity. What did Our Lord say in the gospel? “Unless you turn and become like little children…” Let us return to our childhood.

It’s not about casting off our convictions, responsibilities, and projects; rather, it’s about returning to them with fresh vision—with the hope, joy, and freedom of the “mind’s eye” of a child at play amid God’s poetry.

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