I love when God chooses to communicate with me by (lovingly) slapping me across the face with clarity. Now that the Lyric‘s opera season has begun, I get a day off about every week to 10 days. Whenever that day happens to land on a Sunday, I am thrilled to be able to go to church. Today was one of those days! My beautiful 15 minute walk to church was spent mentally organizing all of the work I was going to get done when I got home. I have to work on the next opera role I need to have learned and memorized soon (since my days are now filled with sitting in rehearsals for the current role and understudy responsibility), memorize a number of arias in preparation for upcoming auditions, translate the massive German and Italian roles I have coming up (after the previously mentioned upcoming role), send in a couple of competition applications, catch up on emails, set up my upcoming Pub Theology meeting (yep, I’m a geek… I’m sure I’ll expand more on this venture in future posts), write this blog post, and do all the life things I don’t have time for during the week, like grocery shopping and laundry. That list was what I got done on my walk to church.
And then the sermon today was about the importance of the Sabbath and resting well.
As much as I personally HATE HATE HATE admitting to faults (the curse of the Wilde trait of “Always Being Right”… it’s a real problem), I have NO problem admitting that I do not rest well. I am terrible at this. When I was working with a fabulous therapist last year dealing with some situational anxiety issues, I was given the assignment to spend time “just walking.” I was told to wander aimlessly without going somewhere in particular, doing it for exercise, or listening to music I needed to learn. My therapist laughed as I literally shrank in my chair at the thought of doing something without a purpose. As much as I took pride in following all the steps to conquer my anxiety issues (I basically thought I was THE BEST at therapy. Ha!), doing all the exercises, and asking for regular assignments, I have yet to do this one, simple task.
I know how to relax, to sit and binge watch Netflix or lazily sleep in, but I don’t know how to really REST and to rejuvenate. The hard part of a job like mine is that the work is never done and 75% of the “work” I do is not counted as work hours. The translating, learning, memorizing, and figuring out how to sing each role is done before the first day of scheduled rehearsal even begins. How do you prioritize rest when there isn’t an end to improving the craft or knowing the languages well enough. Or there aren’t “work hours”? When you can’t delegate any work tasks to anyone else? Where do you draw the line when all that you really get paid for is the product? No one cares how much or how little work went into a performance, only that you can deliver. This self motivated aspect of the career is often difficult for the less naturally organized, artistic-types, but makes my type-A side light up with delight and motivation. However, it’s also very easy for me then to slip into a state of burnout and not realize it until it’s too late. If all of this rest stuff is that hard for me, I can’t even imagine how much more difficult it is for those of you who are also parents, like my sister. How do you do it?!
Binge watching Netflix is relaxing, but I end up just as drained as I was before. One question Brian, my pastor, asked today was “what activities in your current life fill you up and give you Life?” I paused and realized I couldn’t readily answer that. I remember discovering something similar when, after going on a couple of different dates, I couldn’t answer the “What are you hobbies?” or “What do you do for fun?” questions. I love spending time with friends, having good conversations, being involved with my church and small group, and have started this Pub Theology group, but I am primarily an introvert, without introverted activities. If I don’t refill my energy, all of those social fun things can become just as draining as work.
I have only recently started finding some introverted, life giving activities. This Blog has very quickly become a beautiful way for me to spend time with myself and process through varied aspects of my life. I’ve also started reading for fun again. I’m getting back into working out regularly and hopefully going on walks. The easiest thing for me, still, is to turn on the TV and veg out, but I’m hoping that will change as I train my body and mind to remember how much more fulfilled I am after an hour of reading or taking a walk.
But to be honest, the most important aspect of the Sabbath and resting well is God. I so often find myself leaving Him out of the equation when trying to get filled up by activities or external things. I feel like He quietly walks with me through each day, helping me take on struggles, carrying me when I’m depleted, and celebrating in my successes, all the while quietly and unobtrusively asking me to stop and spend some time with Him. He never leaves me, but wants to give me so much more each day than simply “getting through.” I’ve been reading Brother Lawrence’s book “The Practice of the Presence of God.” This was a man who invited God into every moment of his day, allowing God to give meaning to even the most mundane tasks. It’s overwhelming, inspiring, and at times discouraging when I compare Brother Lawrence’s approach to his life and mine: the amount of time I’ve spent complaining about the mundane, switching on my phone or checking social media every time I am without stimulation or want instant validation, avoiding interactions with people around me for fear of awkwardness, or assuming God has given me this voice and then peaced out on the process of developing it. But the truth is, I am not obligated to MAKE Him part of my daily life, I am invited to ALLOW Him to make his presence known and give meaning to every moment.
The Sabbath is my day to stop the craziness for a moment, spend time with the One who gave it all to me, and reorient my heart and mind back to Him. I know I will fail over and over, allowing this crazy career and life’s trials to overwhelm me and give me tunnel vision, but the soft voice of an invitation to stop and rest will always be there.