Quieting the Mental Chatter.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself thinking about the future a lot.  These aren’t deep thoughts about goals or dreams I hope to achieve.  They aren’t about planning trips or looking forward to something fun I’d love to do – though one day soon hopefully! 

No, these are little things like: Should I make the minestrone soup tonight or just serve leftovers? Should I go for a run this afternoon or would tomorrow morning be better? Do I have all the ingredients for those muffins I wanted to make later this week? Then again, I made those overnight oats which I should probably eat soon. Which book am I going to read next? Maybe I should change that eye doctor appointment for later in the month, or maybe I should keep it for next week to get it over with…?

You get the idea.

Decision fatigue is a real thing, let me tell you.  I’ve been known to ask one of my kids to pick out a shirt for me to wear or “Pick a number between one and three!” to help me select which book to read next from my “To Read” cubby. 

The worst part is when I get into the mental loop where options are endless and my mind strives to make the “right” choice when actually any choice is equally valid.  Run today or tomorrow?  Make one dish for dinner or another?  Listen to an audiobook on my walk or don’t?  It doesn’t matter! I’m sure some of this extra mental chatter is due to the ongoing pandemic and the amount of time we’re spending at home.  The routine feels very routine right now.  I’m sure on some level I’m trying to extract meaning and purpose from the daily humdrum.

There are also a lot of voices coming at us, all the time.  I’ve greatly limited my social media intake in 2021, but still between books, blogs, conversations and the occasional Instagram or Facebook scroll, there is so much information in the world that constantly sends the message that we should be effortlessly organized, fit, beautiful, and productive.  If things aren’t going your way, just think differently or try this new product or figure out a new life hack to make everything fall into place.

Not only is all of this exhausting, it’s also not what God teaches us about humanity or our need for Jesus’s saving grace.  I loved this quote from a recent (in)courage article: A life of simplicity, an un-frazzled mind, and a contented heart come not from what the world tells us to pursue but from trusting God. When we focus on Jesus rather than on what others are doing or thinking, we find the simpler life that allows us to rest and be at peace with who we are. Inner simplicity comes when we stop seeking wisdom in our own eyes or in the eyes of others, and we start seeking wisdom from the Lord.

God meets us in the messiness of our daily lives.  The ups and downs, struggles and successes are all part of our spiritual journey.  John Kleinig wrote: “We are not called to become more spiritual by disengaging from our earthly life, but simply to rely on Jesus as we do what is given for us to do, experience what is given for us to experience, and enjoy what is given for us to enjoy.” Grace Upon Grace, pg. 23. What I hear when I read those words is a relaxed, receptive posture towards life. 

Instead of striving to plan and accomplish all the things, we can rest in God’s provision for our lives.  Instead of trying to control our emotions, we can rest is Christ’s love and care, regardless of the emotional weather we’re currently in.  Instead of the mental chatter that the world exacerbates on a daily basis, we can live a simpler, less frazzled life that bring so much more peace. 

As St. Paul told the Romans: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2. 

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