For God I Row

Keep yourself from continually converting your occupations into disturbances and anxieties of spirit. Even if you are being tossed around on the waves and blown about by the winds of many perplexities, look up constantly and say to our Lord: “O God, it is for you that I row and for you I sail; you are my guide and my helmsman!” {Padre Pio}

How difficult it is to give ourselves to peace, to calmly rest in the heart and power and purposes of God. Most mornings recently, I awake refreshed and eager for the day. It isn’t long, though, before some fear or worry or pressure pushes against my soul. What do I do then?

Unfortunately, too often I run off after the angst. Thing is, though, no matter how hard I run, I will never never catch that ol’ fox.

Much of my anxiety and frantic activity comes from the fact that I do not hold to God as my true center. I buy into the lie that my identity depends on my ability to produce, to make something happen. If I am a good dad, a devoted husband…If people take me seriously as a writer…If my books sell…If I lead well in this process of forming a new spiritual community…If I’m witty and smart and keep losing weight… Lots of ifs there. It’s enough to keep me sprinting, always sprinting, heart and soul and mind always darting about. Never at rest.

Thing is, I don’t (or don’t want to) live to produce. I don’t live to be noticed, to secure approval. At my core, I’m a simple bloke – you’ll just find me: a man whose full hope leans on the belief (with doubts and questions and screwups still intact) that God is and that God is for us and that God has created us for immense goodness. Connected to that truth, I am free to discover who God has truly made me – to unshackle my true self and walk into the wild wind and the brilliant sun: bold, care-free, unguarded. I don’t live to have people like my writing. I write because the art is in me; and to be true, I must give it away. I love my boys because my heart is for them; and I want to live from my heart. I am madly in love with Miska – not because I’ve set out to be a romantic throwback – but because a mystery has captured me, the mystery of deep communion when two people give themselves, soul and body, to each other.

And this is what I believe – all this comes from God, a gift. Just a gift. Open the hands and receive.

But when I feel I am losing grip on any of my “roles” (husband, friend, dad, writer, pastor) – that’s when I’m tempted to thrash about, to work and get busy and pace around, to just do something, for crying out loud. And the noise grows deafening. The fear kicks in. It’s a mess.

What I want to do in these panicky places is to remember. To remember who I live for, what I live for: God, whose heart is immensely good. I love for God. I write for God. I hope for God.

And, then, let go of the rest.

Calm yourself. Don’t pay any attention to these vain and useless fears. Fill the emptiness of your heart with an ardent love for Jesus. {Padre Pio}

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