Read |John 15:1-7|
A few months ago, I was in a really weird mental space and wasn’t feeling like myself. I’m usually a very happy and upbeat person and so when that’s not the case, I’m eager to get back to my normal. But for some reason, I wasn’t able to shake off the negative feelings as quickly as I would have liked. For about three consistent weeks I felt unsettled, unbalanced, irritable and deeply sad. During some quiet reflection after work one evening, it dawned on me that I wasn’t being consistent with my 1:1 time with God. Once again, I allowed being busy to get in between me and God. I immediately began putting a game plan into action, which meant structuring a routine that would prioritize my time with God. I whipped out my phone and added “Time with God” at 5:30am as a recurring item on my calendar (and I am by no means a morning person so that was rather ambitious of me).
I typically watch sermons in the mornings as I get ready for work, and for about three days straight, all of the sermons YouTube suggested to me were about prayer. Every sermon I listened to in those three days drove home the point that no matter how good things in life seem to be going, when we are disconnected from God we are not, and cannot be, our best selves. God was basically like, “Ashlee, look at all the great things you have going on: things that you prayed for. Yet, here you are sad, unhappy and filled with anxiety….Why? Well, because we’re not connected.”
God always finds a way to get my attention when I'm slipping up or slacking off in our relationship. A few weeks into trying to get into the rhythm of my new morning prayer routine, a girlfriend of mine was in town from California for work and asked to stay with me. I noticed that she would wake up at 3am to pray and read her Bible. I was impressed by her devotion, and quite frankly ashamed of myself. I confessed this to her and told her that seeing her pray first thing in the morning was inspiring, because I felt like God was challenging me to be better about communicating with Him.
We ended up having a really profound conversation while getting ready for work and she said something that resonated with me. She said, “I don’t want to get so wrapped up in the doing, that I forget to keep God in the center of it all. I see that God is taking me to new levels and I can’t afford to go to those levels without Him. I need His direction, which means I need to be talking to Him.” Everything she said was exactly what God was bringing to my attention. As we reach new levels and enter new territory that’s foreign to us, we need to rely on God even more to help us traverse and navigate those spaces.
God’s favor has been overwhelmingly apparent in my life recently. He’s opened doors and opportunities for me that are exciting, but also frightening. I am doing things I've never done and there are times when instead of being excited about wins, I am terrified. And that’s because I recognize that some of the opportunities before me are so much bigger than me, so the stakes are high. And if I can keep all the way real, there are times I feel extremely undeserving and ill-equipped. But instead of talking to God about it all, I fell into the trap of allowing my fears and anxiety to drive me into doing. Doing to seem qualified. Doing to “stay ready.” Doing to not miss the next opportunity. Doing to prove things to myself and to others. Doing and losing sight of the fact that I’m not capable of doing anything on my own because I don’t breathe breath into my own body.
When I’m disconnected from God, It’s easy to forget that I don’t have to work to prove I’m worthy of what God has called me to do. My job is to respond to the calling. But how can I respond to God’s directions without communicating with Him? How can God help me feel prepared and recognize that His favor means He has a plan and that He knows something about me that He wants to use if I don’t express my concerns to Him?
When I began to communicate with God more consistently, my anxiety, my fears and the incessant urge to work for the sake of working were subdued. Do I still struggle to keep things in perspective from time to time? Absolutely. Am I still borderline a workaholic? Perhaps. But maintaining a consistent prayer life, and making it a necessary part of my self-care routine has made a world of a difference.
When I'm not in alignment with God’s plans for me, I recognize it more immediately when I am connected with Him. When I’m feeling ill-equipped or unqualified for an opportunity that comes my way, He brings me back to His word and reassures me that I can rely on His ability to equip and qualify me. When I’m feeling sad or frustrated about things that are seemingly out of my control, I speak to Him candidly about them and I sit (sometimes lay) in His presence and I wait for His still voice and His peace that surpasses all understanding.
Prayer is not only helpful for us spiritually, it can be helpful to us mentally. If we are communicating with God in a way that is authentic, it relieves us of the burden of carrying our “stuff” all alone. And it helps us verbalize our innermost thoughts and feelings so we don’t drown in them. I pray, I go to therapy, I burn candles and put on a face mask when I want to relax, and I put my phone on Do Not Disturb a lot more these days. I am learning that the art of meaningful self-care is recognizing what we need to be our best selves, and for me prayer is essential to my mental well-being.
My body, soul, and spirit are all in need of connection to God in order for me to live a healthy, sustainable and productive life. Prayer is not just another good Christian thing to do. Add it to your self-care routine and I guarantee you’ll notice and appreciate the difference it makes.
Carolyn Sinclair McCalla is a daughter of God, with a passion for encouraging women to embrace the fullness of God's love for them in Jesus Christ. She leads the Be-Held Community: a group of women seeking, living and being transformed by the truth of God’s Word together.