Finding Tranquility in the Midst of our Busy Lives

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By Claire McGrath

I’ve written in some of my previous posts that my junior year of college was a difficult one for me. I felt very unbalanced, and I realized that I had to make a lot of changes. The summer was a rejuvenating time—I finally got the chance to take a step back, do some reflecting, and begin to feel balanced again. I felt more centered, peaceful, and tranquil than I had in a while. Now, a few months later, I’m in the midst of my senior year, and I’ve found, unsurprisingly, that it’s a lot harder to feel balanced when I’m juggling the competing responsibilities of my academics, my leadership responsibilities within the Office of Social Justice, my jobs, and my friendships. My challenge has been to hold onto that inner tranquility and centeredness that I found over the summer even in the midst of a busy schedule.

I’ve learned that there is a “good” kind of busy, and a “bad” kind of busy. I think that busyness can become damaging when it becomes an excuse to avoid depth. I remember in high school, when we had a substitute teacher, we would always be assigned what we referred to as “busy work,” which consisted of assignments that didn’t really have a purpose—they were simply designed to pass the time until our real teacher returned. These assignments were superficial and pointless; they weren’t actually developing us into better students. This is the bad kind of busy—the kind where our lives become so cluttered with tasks that we have no time for the things that are truly important, like our relationship with God, our connection to our family and friends, nurturing our own spiritual growth, and serving one another. Our lives become like a checklist, in which we focus more on the completion of tasks than the reasons behind the tasks. Efficiency and productivity hold more value than love. Excessive busyness of this kind can give our lives a superficial quality; we fill our lives with meaningless tasks to avoid confronting ourselves, God, and one another.

The “good” kind of busy consists of the life of service and action that God is calling us to. In this kind of busy life, task completion is not the end to which we aspire; rather, tasks are means by which we serve God—they have purpose. This kind of busyness is enriching, rather than draining, because in a life filled with service to God, we create an inner space of tranquility where God and love reside. We must face the chaos of our surroundings with an inner stillness, where we can hear the voice of God clearly. It is this inner stillness that gives our day to day actions meaning. In our inner stillness, where all is quiet, God can speak to us. In the story of Elijah, the prophet expects to hear God in a roaring wind, an earthquake, and then a fire. Instead, he hears the voice of God comes to him as a still, small voice. We live in such a world where sometimes it is hard to find a quiet space, and so we must create this space inside of us where God can speak to us, reminding us that our actions are meaningless if they are not motivated by love. When we hold this inner tranquility at our center, our lives will be filled with the joyful busyness of loving one another.

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