So, how’s your summer going?, I asked a nine year old last week. Boring, she answered. All my friends are at the beach or the lake and I’m stuck here.
I watched a mother of two young children recently as they were running around in different directions. She was trying to get them to sit down at a table but it wasn’t working. As soon as she got one settled, the other would run off. Looks like you’re outnumbered, I teased. It feels like there’s twenty of them, she replied.
Summer is brand new and, for many, the schedule is very different. For those with children, the routines that hold much of our lives together get altered. Just a little while ago, most were probably complaining about the rigors of the schedule and pleading for summer to arrive. Now that it’s here, we may already be yearning for the beginning of school. The people we love can get to be a bit much. And leisure time isn’t all that easy for folks to enjoy. Shouldn’t we be having more fun than this?
All too often we are looking for a change in life to bring a change in how we feel inside. We think a break from our busy lives will give us some peace. We think when the kids are older life will be easier. We think when they leave we’ll be able to do the things we’ve been putting off. We think when they come back to visit our loneliness will leave. We think if we had a different job, or house, or spouse, our lives would be better. Sometimes we get the desired change and realize it doesn’t bring what we want. But being slow learners, instead of examining our inner life, we typically imagine another change in our circumstances which would be better.
Occasionally, when I am meeting with people preparing for marriage, it becomes apparent that someone is looking for the relationship to provide what is perceived to be missing. While there is some truth that a healthy relationship with another can add much to our lives, and even help us feel completed, there can easily be an unhealthy focus on what the other will bring. Needing a relationship sets up something very different than wanting one.
Humans seem to rise and fall with our circumstances, the events and people who make up our daily lives. Of course we are to feel the effects of our circumstances: life delivers terrible blows and offers wondrous joys. To accept our circumstances and allow the feelings they bring to pass through us is one thing. To become mired in an addictive quest for the next thing that will make us feel good is quite another.
If you find yourself floating from one thing to another, unfulfilled and needy, always looking to the next time period as the one which will make things better, perhaps it is time for you to look inside instead of outside yourself. All too often we are unaccepting and ungrateful in our current place. As we attach ourselves more completely to our Lord, and as we practice a daily discipline of listening to him and sharing our very lives with him, a peace evolves which touches all those exterior things. Over time we can sense God’s hand at work, his care for us, and our circumstances do not define us.
The beginning of summer is often a harder time in our prayer lives. We have new distractions, interruptions which may take us away from helpful routines. Along with being refreshed and renewed, we may feel threatened and irritated. Claim that daily time with your Lord. Be aware of your newer surroundings. But remember that it is the Lord alone who determines your well-being, he alone who has what you need.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.