“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and if you are lucky enough to have met my daughter Mackenzie you would agree. The fierce, intense look in her eye. The drive she has. The persistence. The unrelenting– and often unnerving– energy. I took this picture of my girls as they crossed the finish line of Mackenzie’s first race- a kids’ one-miler. It was one of the proudest moments of my life as I watched my girls running together. It awakened a deep desire in my heart that will only continue to grow alongside Mackenzie– to see the two women in my life enjoy time and activity with one another. My wife is a runner, and my daughter is cut out of the same mold. Above Mack’s bed we are creating a sign which will read, “Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will move mountains.” And if there is one thing I am certain of its that she will. Mackenzie is special. She is one-of-a-kind. She lights up a room. She is a leader. She is charismatic. She is passionate. She is fierce. She is driven. She is intense. And… she is four.
Mackenzie carries within her so much of the strength and so much of the liability of her parents. You see Mackenzie comes by this honest. My wife and I carry a rare drivenness. We are performers and achievers. Since Brittany and I met, we have set out to prove that we can accomplish anything we set our minds’ toward. And most often we have. However, everything comes with a cost. And often the price has been our hearts. You see when we are not on guard, the rate at which we find ourselves is often unhealthy and out of rhythm. Manageable. But often lacking in the pace and intentionality needed for our hearts to flourish. To be open to God’s movement and work in our lives. And often– as many parents can attest– it is through the observation of our children that God speaks most directly to our brokenness. I love Mackenzie’s drive, but oh how much more I desire for her to experience rest. Her energy can be exhilarating, but the rare times she slows enough to relax and to be cuddled bring me such delight as her father. I love the girl she is growing to be, but I desperately long for her to slow down and enjoy being my child.
This blog is being written amidst the busiest time of the year. The annual sprint from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. Roads, restaurants, stores, malls, and coffee shops around the world are bracing for and yet counting on this yearly influx in activity. And while this time of the year has such potential to fill our hearts with unimaginable life, love, and joy with all its festivities and traditions, all too often this time of year leads to a loss of heart. You see we are a culture of activity and unrest. We are nearing constant motion; and in those rare moments in which we are not being productive, we often are engaged in some form of distraction which prevents true rest. For instance did you know a recent study found that the average person checks their phone 110 times a day? The study also pointed out that the peak time for phone use is between 5 pm and 8 pm in which over 75% of people are actively using their phones. For most of our homes this is also the most likely time in which we are able to engage our hearts with family and friends. Ironically I was directed to this study through the “Stock” app on my iPhone– no doubt during one of the 110 times I compulsively opened my phone that day.
We are a culture that values movement and productivity more than any before, and more than any culture before ours, we live our lives on the redline. And just as an engine does not instantly fail when driven at maximum capacity, it is certainly not designed to maintain the load for long periods of time, and it cannot adjust for an even greater capacity without certain failure.
Like no other time of the year, the holidays demands more. Cooking lavish dinners for Thanksgiving and Christmas; shopping for presents for our loved ones; working extra hours to afford those presents; children’s activities and programs; baking holiday treats; decorating our homes; attending various holiday gatherings and parties. All of these activities have such potential to bring our hearts to life. Yet all too often these activities push us beyond our limits and create a loss of heart. In fact studies consistently show a significant increase in stress and depression during and just after the holiday season– with suicide rates consistently at an annual high just after Christmas.
Please hear my heart in writing this blog. It is not to be a Scrooge. God knows there are far too many Scrooges in the world. This time of year is my absolute favorite. All who know me know that I am a sucker for traditions. This past weekend my little family continued an annual tradition in which we ordered pizza; ate it in the car, hit up the Starbucks drive-thru for hot chocolates, and drove around for hours in search of the most outrageous Christmas displays. It awakend my heart in a way I desperately needed after a week full of unexpected trials and setbacks. This is the hope and joy this time of year so often delivers in a unique manner.
No, instead my desire is to forewarn of the danger of missing out on all the promise of life, love, and joy that this season offers. The unfortunate result of not guarding your heart. The byproduct of living a life without limits. A life without intentionality and pace. So often the Bible admonishes us to rest. To protect our hearts. Our very God who created everything around us took a day off, and yet we arrogantly think we can handle the daily grind without taking a break. That same God commanded the Sabbath, and while I understand that we are not under the Law, He gave this command not to prevent his people from experiencing life, but to allow us to be open to experiencing abundant life.
Tonight Mackenzie and I went though her nightly routine. After getting on her jammies; brushing her teeth; going to the bathroom; getting her water; going on a mission to find her tattered blue elephant and pink blanket; returning to the bathroom for a tissue; getting under the covers; asking if she could try to go to the bathroom a second time; and finally returning back to bed, I snuggled her in her bed. As usual she tossed and turned. Uncomfortable at rest. She wiggled and squirmed until I held her tightly and breathed slowly and deeply. Eventually and unknowingly her breathing matched mine. As her daddy this is my favorite part of the day. And it does not happen every evening. Holding my little girl in my arms and experiencing her at rest. Peaceful. Calm. Settled. Safely held in her daddy’s arms. A deep desire I am slowly understanding to reflect and come from the heart of my Father. I pray you experience this– if only for a moment– this holiday season.