September has come and gone in a flash. I’ve always thought of September as the month for getting back into some sort of routine after all the holidays and extra activities of summer. It’s a time for fresh starts and usually feels more like the beginning of a new year than January ever did. This year I haven’t been able to get my feet under me for some reason. The long list of projects waiting for my attention remains just that…a long list that seems to get longer by the day. There was no clear end to summer, no clear beginning of a new season, and the calendar is more crowded with commitments than ever. Of course we no longer have children in school so the difference between August and September is more about the weather than a change in our routines. In any case, I must confess to feeling overwhelmed by the number of things on my plate at the moment.
My normal response to feeling overwhelmed is to shut down and hide. I bury myself in a book or in movies and only emerge to look after basic necessities. I tell myself that if I can simply take a day to escape and do nothing at all I will come away from it refreshed and ready to tackle anything. The problem with that reasoning is that one day often stretches into many and I end up feeling guilty, mildly depressed, and just as overwhelmed as ever when I get back to real life. After all, no one can hide forever.
The truth is, escape doesn’t offer true refreshment. It doesn’t actually produce anything of lasting value. I only have to look at the end result to recognize that hiding from life is more of a desolation than a consolation. Twice in the first chapter of Haggai, God tells us to give careful thought to our ways. In Deuteronomy, Chapter 30, He tells us that He sets before us life and death and He admonishes us to choose life. The power to choose is a precious gift and a tremendous responsibility. I choose how I will respond to whatever life throws at me. I may not be able to choose how I feel at any given moment but I can choose how I will deal with those feelings.
What I really need is to take some time apart with God. I need to receive His love, His strength, His forgiveness, His peace. That’s what true refreshment looks like. Why should I settle for a cheap counterfeit that can’t really satisfy? There are other choices to make as well. I may have to brush up on saying no to a few things. As to the rest…well…how does an ant eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time. Today I choose not to look at the elephant but to concentrate on the one bite in front of me. Tomorrow’s bite can wait.