SUMMERTIME BASICS. Why It’s Important to Push the Pause Button
How many of you have already created your “list” for the summer? Be honest! Is the word “pause” on your checklist? You are probably thinking, of course not! There is too much to do! Yes, there is work to be done and fun to be had, but I am going to encourage you to give yourself some breathing space along the way and explore the habit of pausing. If we aren’t careful, we might find ourselves exchanging one form of busyness for another. Every educator I know is depleted by the end of the school year. While the excitement of summer break yields a slight boost of energy, we will wear ourselves out if we don’t take time to push the pause button. It’s no fun starting the new school year fatigued.
Pausing has never been part of my demeanor. As long as I can remember, I have been going 100 miles an hour from sun up to sundown. It’s not to say I haven’t had low-key days every now and then. I’ve gone on vacations and taken time off during holidays, but somehow, no matter how hard I try, I figure out how to be busy during those times, too! Have you ever looked back and had a thought like, “What did I even accomplish this week?”
Too often we feel like we do not have enough time to accomplish everything we want or need to do. There have been many days in my life when I’ve run myself ragged and can’t remember half of what I did. Amid maintaining a healthy lifestyle, picking up the kids from athletic practice, and keeping the bills paid, we can easily lose touch with what is really critical. Our actions start to become robotic as we move from one task to the next. In other words, we aren’t fully present. We’re just going through the motions.
I suppose there are days this may be unavoidable, but it does make me wonder. Looking back, I wonder if I chose the menial over the significant, the temporal over the eternal. I wonder if I listened to my voice or the voices of others instead of the voice of God. I wonder if an opportunity passed me by because I was too preoccupied to pause, just for a moment. I can’t believe I am saying this, but after all these years, I am finally figuring out how to pause and why it is so important.
Although I know what the word pause means, I felt compelled to look it up anyway! According to the dictionary, pausing can be defined as a temporary stop in action or speech or to linger for a time. The last part of that description—to linger for a time—resonated with me. It is in those times of lingering that we find clarity. Pausing gives us the opportunity to be fully present; it enables us to put ourselves in a place to better assess our priorities. The Bible speaks to this in Ephesians.
So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:15-17
Living this Christian life takes intentionality. Being careful, making wise decisions, acting thoughtfully, and discerning God’s viewpoint in each circumstance doesn’t happen in mindless daily tasks. I was reminded of the familiar story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38–42). Martha was all about rushing around, doing what needed to be done, all the while missing out on something so much better—Jesus Himself. I can so relate to Martha. I think she and I would be great friends! I believe there are glimpses of Jesus all around us. If we don’t pause, slow down, and make every effort to be fully present, we may miss Him and what He is calling us to prioritize in our lives.
Would you agree that many people today, including believers, are overworked, overstressed, and spiritually undernourished? If this is the case for you, then you may want to consider pushing the pause button. There is no better time than summer to get a new habit in place. Learning to pause may become your ticket to peace and contentment.
This has been and continues to be a significant area of growth for me. You may have noticed the two concepts I have been emphasizing when it comes to pausing—setting priorities and being present. I realize pausing may look different for each of us depending on our season of life, but I wanted to share what it looks like for me right now in a very practical sense.
First, I’ve discovered I have to determine priorities. These priorities become a litmus test for me, allowing me to set boundaries that keep my priorities in the proper place. For example, spending time in prayer, Bible study, and meditation (i.e., quiet time) is a non-negotiable. Taking care of myself by exercising every day is also a major priority. I protect these times. If someone asks me to do something or take on a responsibility that interferes with these priorities, I say no. It may sound a bit selfish, but I require these disciplines in my life to be fully present in other areas. If I end up sacrificing my quiet time or exercise, I find myself becoming resentful or frustrated with myself.
Second, once my priorities have been established, being present is easier. I have given myself permission to push the pause button. I don’t have to be swept away in the undercurrent of endless activity. I don’t have to do everything that is asked of me and be all things to all people. I don’t have to let every thought that comes into my mind have equal footing. I don’t have to be consumed with yesterday, and I don’t have to worry about what is going to happen tomorrow. I can push the pause button and be present today. Like Mary, I can linger with Jesus.
Let me warn you. Pushing the pause button is anti-cultural, but that is OKAY! Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Some habits are worth the trouble. I don’t want you to look back on this summer and wonder if you missed Jesus. This summer can be a time of growth, renewal, and rest. Get back to the basics. Set your priorities, and be fully present.
Press the pause button!