On Boundaries, Breathing, and Wide Open Spaces

In the article below, Sonja discusses nerves, Jesus, and learning to breathe.  Welcome, Sonja, to our writer’s team!  You can read more about her at our writer’s page.  

It occurred to me that something might be amiss when I opened the door to my dorm’s study room, and, on finding it occupied, burst into tears. The girl looked up from her textbook, and barely had time to register bewilderment on her furrowed-brow study-face before I fled the scene. It was not my shiningest of moments.

I’m something of a border-dweller: an extremely relational extrovert-introvert, outgoing and emotionally expressive… and so very thirsty for times of quiet contemplation before the Lord. The space, the silence, is dear to me, and it’s rarer than rubies these days.  Everything is tight like the knots in my shoulders, and tense like the feeling of expectations I just can’t shake. And I don’t know why that should be. Why the kindhearted prodding of a friend should set me on edge when I need to be held accountable for withholding the secrets of my heavy heart. Or why such a simple word as “no” is SO HARD to pronounce. Or why I wept like an idiot because the last place on campus that would grant me sweet, sweet solitude had been invaded by some stranger who probably just needed room to breathe, too.

And then it comes to me: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) My best friend prays over my weary soul, empathizes, gently reminds me that Jesus was the most relational and loving and available man—perfect in His ministry of mercy—and yet He had boundaries. He had spaces. How is that even possible? I wonder. Isn’t God tireless?

Yes. I am not God.

The term self-care always sounded insidious to me, like a euphemism for a “me-first” mentality. I’m learning it’s about allowing yourself to breathe, so you don’t feel like you’re inches from drowning. It’s about knowing what you can and cannot do for people. It’s about being available for quality time, once your soul is right and you don’t feel like a pile of jangled nerves. It’s about being a Mary in a culture that praises Marthas: sit at the feet of Christ. Let the dishes pile up. Let the phone ring. Tell your friends you just can’t tonight. Cherishing His presence means more than pleasing people, and honey, if you need a break, you need a break.

If you please, take this as an encouragement: you have nothing to prove, except your own weakness. In that very weakness, brokenness, inability to be everywhere at once, and failure to please everyone, He is made strong. That’s how you encounter the peace that surpasses all understanding. And that’s the beautiful, counterintuitive truth.

Happy breathing.

For more about Sonja, visit our writer’s page.

Art Credit: Pinterest, via Natalie

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