Devotional,  Life

Just Stop and Relax: When Good Habits Get In The Way

“Are you almost done? About ready to just sit down?” My husband asks me this question frequently, wondering when I’ll sit down for another episode of Big Bang Theory with him.

You see, my brain clicks away at a dangerously fast pace, running through scenarios, projects, and things that need to be done, as well as the multi step plan to get them done. This skill comes in really handy in certain places, like my job. When I hire people for my team, I look for are those who are able to multi-task and reprioritize at a moments notice. The rest of the job I can teach.

But it’s not always endearing at home. One of my primary roles as a wife is to make sure that my house is a home. Yes, we both share the duties associated with that, but at the end of the day, it is my job to make sure it’s accomplished. And I think I had myself convinced that in order to do this well (AKA not fail at it), I had to be constantly searching for ways to improve the efficiency, flow, aura….you name it. But let me tell you, once you start down that road, you will always find ways to improve. Especially when you check out Joanna Gaines’s book from the library…

That’s what got me started this week. I typically take a few days off in October just to chill at home. It was that time of year again, and I had big plans! I was going to sort out winter/summer clothes, dust and sweep the house, organize the finances, etc. Then over the weekend I stumbled across Joanna Gaines’s book Home Body. And all the sudden I was appalled at how un-iviting my mud room was. How could anyone feel like they were ‘home’ when they walked through that junk? And my kitchen counter was cluttered…who needs quick access to the microwave? And the basement. It’s kind of a lost cause anyway, but there’s just junk sitting down there that desperately needs organization.

So I hit the ground running on Monday. I was checking out at Lowe’s by 8 AM. Yes, they open at 6 AM. I was painting and using power tools and all kinds of fun stuff to create the most welcoming environment I could in what really is just a mud room. By the time Brandon got home from work, the whole project was done. And boy does it look good! The color schemes are soothing. It’s well decorated, but still totally functional. There are some upsides to this nutty brain of mine…

Not only that, but I also got the whole house cleaned back up. My daily cleaning schedule got thrown off when Brandon’s grandmother was in the hospital and through out funeral arrangements. It wasn’t a trainwreck or anything, but it was definitely off schedule.

On Tuesday, I checked off all the appointments and errands that needed to be done. I was feeling quite productive and proud of myself. Feeling like I wasn’t failing at this whole wife/homemaker thing.

Then today, God tugged at my heart a little bit. I was on day three of do-whatever-I-want vacation day, and there was nothing else to finish in the house. I was done. I’d even fixed the toilet paper holder that’d been broken for months. And I found myself getting antsy, a little anxious actually. And I realized that, while all of the things I was doing were good, my heart wasn’t. I’m not regretting my stunning one day remodel project. I had just over-prioritized it and all my other ‘accomplishments’.

So I tried what normal people do on lazy vacation days. I binge watched 4 hours on Netflix. I can barely sit still through an hour long TV show, much less the football games Brandon is always asking me to sit down and watch with him. As I started to feel guilty about just sitting that long, a strange peace came over me….one that seemed to assure me that it was OK to just be for a minute. And when Brandon called, and I informed him that I was watching TV with had no plans of turning it off soon, he replied “Good for you! You never do stuff like that!”.

I firmly believe that rules and habits are essential for our personal and spiritual growth. I once heard habits described as the lattice that our life grows on. Without them, our lives are chaotic; with them, our lives have order. And God is a God of order, not chaos.

Over the past year, as I’ve struggled with depression and working to get my thinking back on track, I’ve relied heavily on habits. Things that are done on a regular basis to foster growth. And these things are oh-so-good for me!

But the legalism in me needs to be stamped out every now and again. I need to be reminded that the purpose of solid habits is not to glorify the habits or the one keeping them. The purpose of habits and organization is to produce a lifestyle that glorifies our Creator. I was making it all about me, when, in reality, none of it is about me.

I’m still working on that balance. Yes, I’ve skipped a whole ten days of my 10k running schedule, and I’ve eaten crap the last few days. And I may have taken two…count them…two soaking bathes this week. I’ve never liked sitting in the tub for long enough to relax in a bath.

But don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll be back up at 5 in the morning to make sure I have a healthy lunch ready and will run 3 miles on my lunch break. I’ll drop off the donations to Goodwill on my way to work. I’ll keep things in order. That is the skill set God gave me to work within. But hopefully I won’t wait until the house is complete before take a nice long soak in the tub, or curl up and read a book.

In my Bible reading this morning, I read this passage

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Lifting my gaze even a little bit would show me that my husband doesn’t care nearly as much about how clean the house is, or how quickly he can locate last season’s clothes. When he asks if I’m almost done, it’s because he wants to spend time with me, and share even the basic experience of watching weeknight TV with me.

In the end, it’s really not about comparing how much we are or are not doing at home, with our kids, at church, at work. It’s about our focus. Sometimes too much of even a good thing can drag our gaze to things that are seen, and distract us from the unseen…which has far greater reward than the temporary euphoria of a totally clean house.

Your thoughts?