I’ve heard it said that our outer world is often a reflection of our inner world. Which is to say that the symptoms of inner chaos and clutter and lack of focus can alert us to what is happening in our souls. I believe that and have found it to be true on more days than I care to admit. However, there is a big “but” attached to the solution to that…
And I almost fell for it last week.
Outer chaos may very well be an indication that there is something askew on the inside, but the “but” of that is that no amount of order, organization, updating or putting your house/office/bank account/room/desk/car/yard in order can substitute for addressing what’s festering in your soul. The unrest can only be settled from the inside out.
In the past couple of weeks I have been in the process of moving my college-age son out of his room in the basement and moving my 17-yr. old into it. This requires total upheaval and storing and sorting of two entire rooms and years of accumulated memorabilia. Once I competed that task, we also rearranged and distributed furniture and electronics from the toy room and then painted and re-accumulated re-fabbed furniture (by me) to put in the newly painted (also by me) guest room that used to belong to my 17-year old. Near the end of the madness, I actually caught myself feeling hopeful because it was almost over, and thinking, “Hang in there, Heather. Once you get this all organized and completed everything is going to be OK”. The busy-ness and exhaustion and feelings of subtle anxiousness will melt away. Well, I am 99.9% done with this overhaul and guess what? I am not 99.9% better.
Here’s what I learned:
If I don’t want to face certain situations or feelings, staying busy with projects and people and entertainment are excellent distractions. If I am afraid of looking at how I might need to change or adapt or what I might need to let go of, a good make-over (on my body or my home) works wonders. But eventually, when it’s all said and done, I am left with me, myself and I to deal with.
I was thinking about this while running errands today. This problem manifests itself a couple of different ways in me. There are times when I over-schedule and allow very little margin so that I don’t have time to think about areas that are upsetting to me. It’s called avoidance. I go to coffee and the store and work later than I should and watch movies until I can’t keep my eyes open. I know there is something causing me to feel unsettled but don’t have the heart to handle it in a healthy way just yet. Then there are other times where I go a couple weeks in a frenzy of meetings and events and appointments before it occurs to me that maybe my unrest and lack of serenity might be coming from somewhere deep in my soul that is trying to flag me down. It’s flailing and floundering and needs attention; stat!
Even now, as I write and reflect, I can feel the pull of productivity and validation through maintaining a full schedule–through getting stuff done. Sitting here on this couch, sharing and looking inward is simply unacceptable (this is what my brain is telling me). But my spirit, God’s spirit whispering to me, tells me otherwise.
That how I go through life is more important than the what. And I can’t do the what well if the how of my soul is running around like the Tasmanian Devil. I’m just sayin’.