If we need to dig deep to replenish ourselves after the crazy lives we led before, during, and after the pandemic and all we experienced, what gets in the way of replenishing since we keep trying to find what can help? Some of us already have seen that vacations, usual activities, and a host of other things don’t quite do what we had hoped even though we are grateful to be able to do them. A piece still seems to be missing for many of us.
If there are several layers or levels in our being we must get through to get to the depths where God dwells, what gets in the way?
If one layer is all the internal and external noise that Eldredge and others refer to as “the Shallows” sets us up for distractions from every direction, we are already hearing how we need to unplug, put our devices down, and see how that impacts our sleep, our relationships, and more. We hear that and yet we are connected to and have become dependent upon them for much of what we do every day. They are not only devices for work and communication, but also give us directions, resources of all sorts, and entertainment even if we are alone. Tuning out and turning off sounds good, but when we try it, we often discover it is harder to do than we thought. We don’t want to miss a message, a call, a post on social media, etc.
No matter how we start to try to get unstuck, we often find ourselves so linked together in these distractions that it can be a bit like “herding cats.” Yet, we should not give up the effort and soon we will discover the greater peace of mind and rest inside that eludes us otherwise. Many I know have checked out of social media due to the divisiveness there and have also turned off the 24-hour news cycle that fuels distraction and fuels many of our fears and anxiety, but it is much harder to deal with what Eldredge calls “the Midlands.”
Those are the places where we carry our hopes and dreams that are most important to us. It is where we find our worries, heartaches, disappointments and more. Our struggles and concerns for all those we care about dwell there and despite scripture pointing us to God and trusting Him with them, we struggle with those and if we have a moment of doing so, they tend to be picked up again soon. These are the things we care most deeply about, and we fear the loss and the grief related to the challenges there.
When “the Shallows” and “the Midlands” keep us immersed in them, trying to move into the deep places of God can feel like slogging through knee-deep mud after we are already worn down. How we navigate that will be impacted by whether we have a relationship with God and if we do, what type it is.
“Your very being is made to be saturated with the being of God. You can have faith in God from a distance; you can have a ‘relationship’ with Christ, as your Father, or the Holy Spirit, and not be inhabited, interwoven, saturated.John Edredge
We can too often be tricked into believing we need to handle things or fix things or that we are alone in all this, and God is off somewhere else tending the flock of which we are not a part. What we miss is that we need to lay these things down so He can lead us into the depth of our relationship with Him and be replenished by being saturated with Him.
To break free to move toward God, we need to learn a principle Eldredge speaks of as “benevolent detachment.” We need this because we need rest from all the distractions and cares. It’s not abandonment but rather handing all those to God for Him to carry them for us, to entrust them to Him specifically.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
How do we operationalize that and apply that truth?
We practice by telling God in the morning and evening “I give everyone and everything to you God.” Eldredge suggests we may need to say it multiple times because saying it once may well bring to mind the very people and things we need to release to Him. This is something that will take practice but learning to do this will begin to move things out of the way to move closer to Him.
“You’ve got to release the world; you’ve got to release people, crises, trauma, intrigue, all of it. There has to be sometime in your day where you just let it all go. All the tragedy in the world, the heartbreak, the latest shooting, earthquake – the soul was never meant to endure this. The soul was never meant to inhabit a world like this. It’s way too much. Your soul is finite. You cannot carry the sorrows of the world. Only God can do that. Only he is infinite. Somewhere, sometime in your day, you’ve got to release it. You have to let go…”John Eldredge
To do that means you remember that He never lets go of you or any of these things.