The past couple months have felt like such a whirlwind. They have been full of good things and rife with blessings, but I find that in the midst of so much happening (even so many good things), my soul becomes a little parched. My time spent with the Lord gets shorter and shorter and my prayers become more like darts hurled in the Spirit’s direction. Though I do sense God’s presence patiently enduring beside me, I hate to admit that acknowledging that presence becomes routine at best and an afterthought at worst. I get so caught up in life that I numb the line that connects me to Life itself.
Has this ever happened to you? We all get busy and it can seem like we drag God along for the ride rather than following where He might lead. Our disciplines slip and before we know it, we are presenting a self to the world that is operating on the fumes of humanity rather than the fuel that comes with drawing near to God. If you’re feeling this way, know that you are not alone.
One thing that can usually help pull me out of a slump is to read the words of someone that can impart wisdom for my journey. This time around, it is Ruth Haley Barton, a former pastor who now spends her time pouring into ministry leaders to help them have the rich spiritual life that we preach to our people. Her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership is one that I encountered in seminary and has continued to pop up since. I figured it was time to take the hint God was giving me.
I could go on for days about even the first few pages, but allow me to share my favorite line so far:
“Truly, the best thing any of us have to bring to leadership is our own transforming selves.” (pg. 19)
This was convicting and encouraging all at once. I did internalize this truth as a leader, but even if you don’t find yourself in a position of leadership, it works on all levels. Perhaps we can say this:
“Truly, the best thing any of us have to bring to life is our own transforming selves.”
We often hear about what it takes to “live our best lives”. One foray through Instagram will yield at least ten thousand solutions to the age old question of how to thrive. There’s nothing wrong with trying a new moisturizer now and then, but I think Barton has found the true secret. Living our best life means arriving at the party with a consistent desire to grow and be transformed. We all stagnate sometimes, and that is normal, but moving in that direction of growth and transformation makes all the difference in the world.
We are transformed when we abide in the presence of God. No matter what abiding might look like for you, it is God who is working out transformation in our lives. He can move us from bitter to loving, broken to healed, complacent and bored to full of passion and zeal. As Christians, it is our goal to always be on the road of transformation into holiness and daily looking more like Jesus.
So what is the best way to show up to life? How can we live so that we aren’t drained to husks? Stay in God’s presence.
But, as I shared before, sometimes our spiritual lives stall out a bit. When we show up to life, we are doing so in our own power. When we aren’t seeking transformation, we can’t bring our best selves, our transforming selves, to the table.
So what do we do?
Know that God isn’t mad at you.
I don’t know about you, but when I am adrift, it can be easy to believe that the Lord is just tapping His toes, waiting for me to return so He can give me a piece of His mind. This simply is not true. When you feel like you have lost your connection to God, He is still holding on to the other end of the thread. Give it a tug and He will be there, ready to continue growing you in love. Feeling shame over having lost the way is one of the chief reasons that many of us struggle to get back on course. In the name of Jesus, there is no shame–the Creator is always ready to welcome you back.
Do what works for you.
For me, getting out of my slump almost always involves reading and quiet, still mornings. I feel empowered by words and I feel refreshed when I get to sit in the silence. It can be hard to force myself to do these things, but I never regret the effort. For you, it might take a kayaking trip or cooking a good meal or cranking up music until you can’t hear yourself as you cry out to God. There is no one right way to connect with the Lord, so step back into your roots and follow what feels best. God made you exactly as you are and that is who He wants to see.
It’s not a race. A step back on the right track is a step in the right direction. Give yourself grace. If you were reading large swaths of Scripture, start by reading a chapter. If you were spending hours in prayer, start by working back into 15 minutes. Ease into it, be patient, and soon you’ll find your rhythm once again.
Remember that only God transforms.
God is the one that brings about transformation. If we want to return to bringing our transforming selves into the lives we lead, we have to understand that we can’t manufacture that in our own strength. Believe me, I’ve tried. It just results in another mask to be worn. All we can do is position ourselves for that transformation and watch God work. To show up to life as someone who is transforming is to show up hand in hand with the Holy Spirit. We can’t do it ourselves, but we can really can enjoy the process.
So in the end, no matter how far you feel you’ve drifted, God is still in the business of transformation and being someone who is consistently being transformed in His presence is still the best way to live. Turn back, find your stride, give and receive grace, and be transformed.