I got a phone call the other day from my college roommate. Even though we are very different, we became best friends in the three and half years we were together. She left for graduate school a couple of years ago and now lives in Virginia Beach, a long way from home, and the last few years haven’t been the easiest for her. In the message she left, she talked of life and a few other things and then said she had found her swing set. It was a relief to hear, and a reminder that I still really hadn’t.
Swing sets are a kind of unintentional statement with us. When we were college freshman, we scoured our tiny town to find a playground that would suffice our urge to be kids for a day. We finally found one, a great one in fact, on a huge, grassy lot at one edge of town. It overlooked a little river and turned out to be great for reading and homework (a.k.a. sunny afternoon naps) and time away from hectic schedules. What it turned out to be the best for though, was calming down and enjoying God. We went through heart-break, bad grades, deaths and joys at that park.
Because it meant so much to us during that time, I’m a great advocate of finding a place to meet with God. Maybe we don’t do it regularly, but most Christians I’ve talked to know the importance of having a “quiet time” or a time set apart to do bible study, pray and in general just spend time with God. (Though I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at it.)
I think God should be a part of my life no matter where I’m at, but sometimes I need to have one-on-one time with Him and I don’t choose places where I can really focus. I try to squeeze it in while I’m on lunch at work or while the TV is on or, in a dirty living room where my thoughts are really on how much I need to clean and not on hearing what God has to say. He is in all those places, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes He’s waiting for me to put other distractions away, and only focus on Him.
What I found in college, what I still need to find where I’m at now, is a swing set. A place where I can completely get away from the world and indulge myself in God. A place where I can sit back and just breathe. A closet of sorts to pray and focus on what is most important.
I actually can’t think of very many places that aren’t hectic in my life. That aren’t driven by deadlines and expectations. That don’t wear on my nerves and exhaust me. Sometimes even crawling into bed isn’t much comfort when my mind keeps racing with to-do lists and unfinished projects.
I am so susceptible to get so caught up in my daily life, that I forget my eternity is secure and I have purpose. I forget about God. I forget He’s there, watching, listening, blessing, preparing, crafting this clay into the jar he desires. When days like today happen, and I’ve got so many things on my mind I can’t focus on what I’m doing, I focus even less on God.
And it hurts. Not just me, but Him. It strains our relationship. I don’t see Him as well, things darken, I’m pulled away.
But when I’m on a swing set or napping in the park, or driving on country roads, life slows down. I forget that I have a ton going on. I forget people are pushing on all sides, expecting, expecting, expecting. I have to be here, I have to do this, I have laundry and dinner and dishes and family and friends I haven’t talked to for weeks and … so many lists. Things begin to unravel. I treat others poorly, mostly myself, with critical words and biting thoughts and comments.
It’s so important in my life to find a safe spot. A closet. To find a secluded spot where God and I can meet purposefully.
Finding a way to keep Him a part of everything doesn’t come naturally. It’s not something I can set out to do by saying, “well, I’m a Christian, He’s there all the time.” He is, but where am I? Can I tell that He’s working, that He’s there? That maybe the really tough crap I’m going through is a trial to be joyful for because He’s making me more like Him? I don’t always get there, especially if I don’t have time with Him.
He’s pushing and pulling and molding me every single day. Sometimes it hurts more than I like. A lot more. Then sometimes I can feel the beauty and blessings He’s making. When I make time for God, my stressful days are still stressful, my hurts are still hurts, all the expectations from others are there, but it’s God that’s pushing me through, not my own strength. When I meet with Him and keep coming back and regaining my focus, I breathe. He is gracious to meet with me, and even on a swing set, probably mostly on a swing set, I’m reminded He is my eternal purpose and reward.