The Road To A Depleted Soul
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” - Mary Oliver.
Have you heard this quote before? My guess is that you’ve seen it on coffee mugs, stitched on throw pillows, strewn across social media on memes galore. It’s a beautiful thought. And, I believe, can be a soul depleting one.
I use the Daily Office for my Bible readings, and right now we are in 1 Kings. This is not a book I would normally go to for a daily reading, which is why I like the Daily Office. It forces me to dig into books I wouldn’t normally gravitate toward. Today I was struck by something.
God is not in a hurry.
1 Kings 6:1 reads “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord.”
480 years AFTER the Israelites had come out of Egypt, the temple began to be built. Then if you continue reading the chapter you see the intricate details that were lovingly crafted into every square inch of the temple. The mental picture of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies alone is awe-inspiring. The chapter ends by saying Solomon spent 7 years building the temple.
God was waiting for the person he knew He had created just for that purpose to be born. He was in no hurry to have His temple built, the time would come.
This theme is throughout the Old Testament. Abraham is told he will be the Father of many nations and then waited and waited and waited for a son to come. You know he wasn’t thinking “I bet that God will want me to be really old when my destiny is fulfilled”.
None of us think that way. Our one wild and precious life is waiting to be lived!
Remember Joseph and his dreams of his father and brothers bowing before him? I can’t imagine him lying in bed at night thinking “I can’t believe my family will one day bow to me. I’m sure I will have to be sold into slavery, accused of rape, spend years in prison, and then basically become Egyptian before it happens!”
What a waste of his wild and precious life.
My husband and I spent many years ministering to university students. Without a doubt, one of their main concerns when it came to their relationship with God was “finding God’s will for their life”. It’s as if “God’s will” is this illusive thing that they might miss if they aren’t agonizing over what it is. We were constantly reminding them that, yes, God may have a big plan for your life, but today God’s will is for you to go to class.
This isn’t just in young adults, the thought is pervasive throughout our modern Church. We think there must be some huge purpose for our life and we have to find it or we may waste our life. So we strive and strive. We push ourselves to the limit with our jobs, our family, our church, trying to squeeze out every drop of life we have because… we only have this one life to live and we must live it to the fullest. Our underlying mission statement is Carpe Diem!
And our soul is depleted in the process.
We have collectively become stressed, depressed, and anxious people. And please hear me, I’m not pointing any fingers, I’m talking to myself as well. I’ve written many times about my own struggles with anxiety and depression.
We wear stress like a badge of honor. It is not. It is soul-crushing and faith depleting. Our fascination with hurry and success and self-worth has led us collectively down a road of depletion.
Richard Foster says, “In contemporary society, our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he will rest satisfied. . . Hurry is not of the Devil, it is the Devil.”
What if, in God’s mind, my one purpose with this time on Earth was to live next door to someone who would watch my life and begin to wonder what Jesus is all about. Then, years down the road, they find Jesus and then raise their child to love Jesus who then raises a child who becomes a great evangelist? My ultimate “purpose” culminated 2 generations later. If I knew that, would I be satisfied with it?
If this story were mine, that would mean my “ultimate purpose” was just to live a daily life in love with Jesus. That’s it. To live a life that would make someone who lived next to me wonder why I am not like everyone else they know—driven, anxious, exhausted.
1 Thessalonians 4:11 reads, “and to make it your driving ambition to live quietly and peacefully.”
I don’t know about you, but to me that thought is freeing. Soul-flourishing. To know that my “purpose” is to do whatever God is leading me to today. To do the things I know to do today, and to trust God to be in control of the outcome of the culminations of my todays.
Because He is not in a hurry. He is never in a hurry. He knows the exact plan for His creation and He is lovingly and patiently guiding it towards completion. This should make us, as believers, the most free people on the planet.
Having faith in the fact that He is in control and we are just doing our part day by day should break the chains of stress and hurry that drag us down. This should free us from the frantic pace of pursuing significance through our accomplishments.
It’s time we let go of that “one precious and wild life” mentality, because as believers we know it is not true. It’s a mirage. Perhaps the best way we can witness to our world is by not being anxious and exhausted. Maybe this will set us apart and cause others to ask why?
Then we will be able to share with them the good news that frees them from their striving, that liberates them from the crushing expectations of living their best life now, that introduces them to a sacred pace down a narrow way that leads to abundant living.
So, what does God want you to do with your one wild and crazy life? It may be just raking the neighbor’s leaves, loving your people, and not worrying about the rest.
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