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Off the Hook

Many years ago when I was in the chronically busy stage of my life, I was driving on the interstate after leaving a full day of work, heading to an appointment, right before I was headed to a meeting, so that I could go home and work on my graduate school homework until as late as 2:00 am, and then wake up in the morning and do it all again.

This was my life. My health was a mess, and I was completely exhausted. Suddenly while I was driving, I broke down in tears. “I wish someone would let me off the hook!” I said aloud in frustration. I guess what I was hoping was for someone to pull me aside at one of these meetings, practices, classes, whatever and lovingly say, “Honey, you look exhausted. I think you’re overextending yourself. You need to go home and rest, eat a good meal, take the evening off.” To which I was sure I would have said, “Thank you for noticing, oh wise one. I’m going to do exactly that, and then I’m going to reassess how I’m managing my time and make some adjustments so I can better care for myself.”

For some reason that conversation never happened. It would be awhile before I realized that there was only one person who could write me a permission slip allowing me to take better care of myself, that there was only one person who could let me off the hook.

A friend once told me a story of a man climbing up a long and winding mountain. God gave him a stone the weight of a couple bricks and asked the man to carry it to the top of the mountain. The stone was a little heavy but it was manageable and he felt capable of his mission as he began the climb.

Along the way someone stopped and asked the man, “Since you are headed up the hill, would you mind taking this stone with you as well?” Because he was a helpful man, he took the stone and continued the journey. As he made his way up the hill, many more people saw him and asked if he could carry another stone until finally the stones were piled high above his head, and he collapsed from the weight of them.

He cried out, “God, this is too much for me! How can you expect me to make it to the top of the mountain like this?” To which God replied, “All I asked you to do was carry that one stone. You took on all the others yourself.”

How do we know when we’ve taken on too many stones, when we’ve taken on stones that really are not ours to carry? For me it’s simple, we listen to God.

How do we listen to God when the world seems so much louder? We take time for solitude, for meditation, for reflection, for contemplation.

I know, it sounds like one more thing on the to-do list, but it’s much more than that. Having that time in Divine communication helps you to identify what is in sync with your true self, what God truly is calling you to do, so you can clear out the clutter and focus on the important things.

Stephen Covey said, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage -pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically- to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”

We may just scurry around mindlessly from task to task to task unless we carve out time to listen to the stirrings of our spirit, to our “bigger yes”.

Several years ago I wrote myself a permission slip to lay down some stones in my life. Some of them were really beautiful stones, but they simply weren’t my stones to carry anymore.

Since then I am careful which stones I pick up, spending time in contemplation before picking up a new one, letting God choose the right ones for me, taking time to discern what belongs to me and when to take myself off the hook. I have found my “bigger yes” and it feels a lot like freedom.

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