How would you describe the women you encounter day in and day out? Most women I see appear to be spread thin, worn out, or wound tight. Just think about the women you pass in the school pick-up line or the grocery store checkout. Or just think about yourself. Would you place yourself in one of the three categories above, or would you describe yourself as balanced and at peace? Very few of us could honestly claim the latter.
How can we live in fullness without being drained empty? The answer is found in the question itself: fullness. All too often, we pour ourselves out without bothering to fill ourselves up, and in the end, we are completely spent. French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux believed, “The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself.” How do we make this shift from canal to reservoir?
Fullness comes when we pay attention to what brings us life—mind, body, soul, and spirit—and nurturing it. So, what brings you life? Some of us will have a response immediately; some of us won’t have a clue. That’s okay. Consider this:
How are you nurturing your mind? I love books, and in the past, I’ve experienced much joy in reading. However, I admit that as social media has occupied more of my free time, good books have occupied less. I feel the loss. Leonardo da Vinci explained, “Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation…even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” Nurturing your mind will perhaps require a change in habits (I know it will for me), but the options are limitless. Books, documentaries, museums, podcasts, classes, or online magazines and blogs are just a few suggestions.
How are you nurturing your body? John F. Kennedy said, “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” The mind-body connection! It’s easy to ignore our physical body when we spend ourselves in so many ways; however, the price of this neglect is high… We can begin to care for our bodies by caring about what we eat (again, this might require a habit change); by finding some form of exercise that brings us both fitness and delight; and by addressing any special care we need (regular massages, perhaps?).
How are you nurturing your soul? Beauty, community and creativity are vital to your senses, affections, and desires; however, they are often the first things that we neglect in the busyness of life. After all, who has time to journal, to meet friends for coffee, or to visit the botanical gardens? However, this trio fills us with peace, encouragement, and clarity that we desperately need. There are other things, unique to you, which are life-giving to your soul. Perhaps it’s music, cooking, or gardening… whatever it is, it’s worth your time and attention, for it will bring you life.
How are you nurturing your spirit? The spirit is the part of humanity that connects us with God. When we neglect our spirit, we can feel disconnected from the source of our life. By tending to our spirit, we are filled with living water—what could be better? We can attend to our spirit through solitude and silence, Bible study and worship, fasting and praying, and a myriad of spiritual practices.
Fullness comes by paying attention to what brings you life—mind, body, soul, and spirit—and nurturing it. So, what brings you life?
When you already feel spread thin, worn out, or wound tight, nurturing yourself in any of these ways might feel like it would drain the last of your reserves. Here’s the challenge: Try. Adopt a practice from each of these areas, and faithfully practice it for a month. It could be as simple as starting your day with a drive to a nearby park, listening to music en route. Then, take a brisk walk, noticing the trees and flowers blooming along the path. Before bed that night, light a scented candle and spend thirty minutes reading that book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand. Finally, end your day with a prayer of gratitude. Such a simple change to your daily routine could bring surprising fullness, resulting in a reservoir that doesn’t run dry.
Check out The Discipline of Rest and Running on Empty, Mom?