The Gift of Fatigue

The fall and early winter were difficult for me. I felt like I was losing my mind - quite literally. At 39 years old, I should not be feeling like I am developing dementia.

A heaviness was constantly sitting on my brain that felt as if it was compressing it or pulling it down somehow, accompanied by brain fog that made it difficult to find or sort through anything up there. A combination of emptiness and confusion predominated any thoughts I tried to assemble, and my memory was sporadic at best. I found it easier to simply not think.

It is frustrating to not have control over your own mind, to know there is something up there but to not be able to access it. And it is difficult to function - to be a wife, to parent children, and to run a house in my case - without use of your mental facilities. Not to mention feeling trapped in your own body and feeling as if you have lost a part of who you are.

Yet, my prayer was, "Lord, take this from me. Help me to feel better and think more clearly... but NOT YET."

Not yet? Am I crazy? Lord, let me feel like this a while longer. Don't take this cross from me yet. Why?

Well, you see, there are blessings in the crosses, and, though I could not understand many other things, I could understand this.

As I had mentioned in my last blog post, God had clearly asked me to quiet my mind and tune in to Him. My mind has often tended to move from one thought to another, to another, to another, analyzing and thinking, landing too often on things I don't care to think about. Even when not moving quite so quickly, it was scarcely at rest. The quiet was a blessing.

Because of the heaviness and fog in my brain, I was able to quiet my thoughts and sit with God. I was forced, in a way, to just BE. I wrote in my notebook at that time, "I am forced to let go. I cannot hold onto things or think too much about things because it wears me out. It's practically a necessary surrender."

Quiet and peace do not come naturally to us, especially in our current state where our bodies are running one direction and our minds another. We're bombarded with information and with tasks to check off our to-do list. When we sit, we feel guilty that we aren't DOING something and our minds rush to those things that are left undone until we finally get up to do them and likely find something else also undone on the way.

It can also be difficult for us to simply accept the way things are. We tend to want to improve upon ourselves and our lives, to fix what we see as broken and to complete what we see as incomplete. We have so much at our finger tips and can do much to quickly get items we need or to find a solution to what ails us. It is difficult to settle on what is and easy to search for more.

"Quiet your mind and tune in to Me." Our very lives distract us from God and from the deep life He is calling us to. These tasks distract us from hearing His voice and hearing Him speak to us. Letting go of those things and quieting our minds can be a monumental task but is so necessary if we are to tune in to Him.

Sometimes we need something that will slow us down or stop us in our tracks and force us to gain perspective, that will make us quiet our racing minds. Whether it be a cancer diagnosis, a death of a child, a loss of a job, or exhaustion, sometimes we need those times. After all, what is more important? Getting everything done and keeping everything together and functioning, or hearing God speaking and directing our lives?

We all know the famous Bible story of Martha and Mary found in Luke's Gospel. Jesus comes to visit his beloved friends in Bethany, and Martha is running around preparing everything for Jesus' visit. Mary, however, sits at Jesus' feet and listens to Him speak. When Martha asks Jesus to tell her sister to help her, He replies with, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

We tend to focus on Martha's busy-ness and her running around, as compared with Mary's sitting at the Lord's feet. It is indeed essential to find some time to set aside work and to spend in quiet prayer with Jesus. And that is critical if we are to learn quiet our minds to listen to Him.

However, I want to draw our attention to two words: worried and distracted. It was not so much what Martha was doing with her body that was the issue. It was what was happening in her brain. She was allowing herself to worry about many things and to be distracted from what is the most important and better part; our Lord, our God, was sitting in her home, speaking.

Things do need to be done. In this case, dinner must be made; Jesus would need something to eat. But these things that need to be done should not take away from our relationship with and awareness of Jesus in our lives. It is a matter of remembering what is most important. At the time, it may seem as if dinner is more important; however, God is always more important. We cannot let our tasks or our worries distract us from hearing His voice and hearing Him speak to us, even as we continue to complete the tasks.

Sometimes we also need to distinguish between those things that do need attention, such as dinner, and those things that don't need so much attention or even that we can let go of. Some of Martha's preparations were likely necessary and some probably seemed much more important than they actually were, but she was driven by worry and by a need to have everything just right (as well as by Jewish law most likely). If we learn to let go of our worry over everything being just right and learn to let go of things that don't truly need to be done, we can have more time and more energy to focus on God.

We are called to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17; cf also Luke 18:1, 21:36). Is that not what He is asking of us today also? To learn to quiet our minds and tune into Him. Like Martha, we are often worried and distracted. Like I had been, our minds often move from one thing to another, to another, as we analyze and think. We are so distracted from what is important, from the best part. We are distracted by the one thing that is truly needed: hearing God's voice and listening to Him.

How do we pray without ceasing? There are two important steps. One: we learn to quiet our minds. My time in which I could barely keep a thought in my head helped me to learn to quiet my mind. I am now discovering mindfulness from a Catholic perspective. Mindfulness helps us to quiet our minds and be rooted in the present moment. This type of mindfulness not only does that but also helps us to also be rooted in God in the present moment.

The second step is to be aware of God's presence at all times throughout our day, praying when appropriate through the day and spending some amount of time, daily, in quiet prayer. This awareness of His presence does not mean that we are neglecting our responsibilities nor the people in our lives. We are not sitting in quiet prayer all day long. We are not necessarily even holding a constant conversation with God all day, though that does naturally happen at points during the day. We are simply aware of His presence in the little and big things that happen as we move through the day. We are aware of God in the gifts He gives us as well as His grace and His presence as we experience trials and difficulties.

Let us join Mary and choose the better part. Let us begin today to learn to quiet our minds, to let go of worries and distractions (in future posts, I will share more specific ways to learn to do that). Let us learn to tune in to God and be aware of His presence throughout each day.





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