The new year offers us an opportunity to do life a little differently.
In the past year, we’ve all experienced busyness. There’s so much to do each day, so many projects to accomplish, so many opportunities and choices to fill in our time and make our life meaningful.
But with all of the great possibilities modern society has to offer, the time to do them all hasn’t increased. We still get just 24 hours a day. This can create the feeling of being overwhelmed, being overstimulated, or being continually dissatisfied no matter how much we achieve in a day.
Deep inside, we know that an anxious mind doesn’t have the necessary space for God to come in. So how do we have more peace in 2020 despite the many things we have to do? Here are 8 ideas to help …
1Your plans should help you
In the first part of his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola reminds us that material things are here to help us get to Heaven. And they are good for us only to the extent that they do. So let each thing fulfill its proper role: our schedules, routines, checklists, and plans are there to serve us, we’re not there to serve them. Cultivate a real inner freedom in respect to the material things.
2Develop keywords and test your pursuits against them
Such words might be silence, warmth, love, beauty, close relationships.
Ask yourself: will doing this thing help me find silence, or nurture a close relationship? If it doesn’t, there’s no point in doing it. Does even the thought of all the things on your to do-list for tonight wear you out? It’s plausible that you shouldn’t be doing all of them. We can learn from the minimalism movement. We’ll always have to fight in order to do less: non multa, sed multum (not many things, but well).
3Lower some standards
We’re trying to live up to many standards. An author put it comically – applying this tendency to parenting:
How to Be a Mom in 2019: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, underestimate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, plastic-free, body-positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free, two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard. Also, don’t forget the coconut oil.”
And she added ironically, “How to be a mom in literally every generation before ours: Feed them sometimes.”
Really, it’s impossible to achieve All The Standards. So decide which ones are important to you, and drop others. For example, you could have ready-to-eat dinners a few times in a week, or resort to paid help to do some of the work. Accept imperfection in many areas of life, because it would be pride to expect more than a man reasonably can do. Blogger Nancy Kelly advises us to “keep cutting back until there is peace in your home.”
4Break free from other people’s opinions
An indispensable aspect of having more peace inside is ridding oneself of what other people might think. Other people have other standards, other preferences, and their opinions are often times ephemeral. It will never be possible to please everyone – even if it’s a legitimate desire to want our Christian lives to appear attractive to the outside world.
5Have more trust in God
In his book Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, Kevin DeYoung notices that Jesus hasn’t interacted with the vast majority of people while walking this planet. Jesus didn’t meet every need. People were left waiting in line to be healed. Yet, no one has ever done the will of the Father in an all-embracing way like Jesus.
Not being able to do everything goes hand in hand with greater trust that God will provide. We’ll always want to see our family and friends more often, and we’ll always desire to have more boxes checked off on our to-do list before we head to bed, but we just have to accept that we’re limited creatures, and that perfection is not of this world.
Ultimately, the world will be saved by God’s grace. We’re just instruments.
6Value people over things
In her book Teaching from Rest, Sarah MacKenzie writes: “My problem with schedules, routines, and general task management systems is that most of them feed into my tendency to prioritize getting stuff done over building relationships.”
Our life is about people, not things.
While Martha had a noble intention to cook a delicious meal in order to please our Lord (Luke 10:38-42), she lost sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is always conversation and relationship with Our Lord — not the perfect dinner.
We all act like spoiled children sometimes. When we’ve done something, the only thing we think about is doing more. A great antidote to this rat race of getting stuff done is thankfulness. Be thankful for everything you’ve accomplished today, even if it’s not “enough.” There will always be more to do. Relish the moment and discover what has been true, good, and beautiful in it.
8Take Sunday rest very seriously
In 1952, the Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper rekindled the age-old idea of leisure as fundamental for society. What he meant was that the human genius not only consists of actively doing things, but also in contemplation, of ‘receiving’ beauty, truth and goodness. That’s why we need to sit down, listen, pray, worship, and adore in order to be truly human.
Working is good. Working is great, even. But man is not made for work alone. Working 7/7 and never resting would actually be like the life of a slave. Let’s always remember that the ultimate goal of our activities is not found in the activities themselves, but in God, in eternity.
Safeguarding the Sabbath is an excellent first step towards ordering all of our pursuits towards the right goal. When our heart finds its rest in Him, we will find true peace.
A prayer for the busy stay-at-home mom