Maybe this summer will be different. Maybe this time summer will be filled with long, glorious days of sticky s’mores and campfires and starry skies. When the snow is still on the ground, I dream of summer’s sleepy, slow mornings and adventure-filled days. But in May, as summer draws near, I develop a nervous tic, and by mid-June, I’m in full-on drill sergeant mode, handing out assignments to my three boys for the fun we. must. have. Honestly, I’m overwhelmed by, and maybe even a little scared of summer.
I long to be one of those moms who can live in the moment and casually decide each day’s activities at the spur of the moment, but packing the lunches, swim bags, snacks, and water bottles isn’t a casual event for me. It tires me to plan the outings and arrange the playdates and deliver the boys. It grates on me that I’m constantly rescuing chlorine towels and soggy swimsuits from the floor. To deal with the drain, I become Suzy Taskmaster, our family’s social director, caterer, housekeeper, and chauffeur. My measure of success isn’t if we are experiencing the wonder of summer—it’s getting it done. Controlling it. Maybe even squeezing the joy out of it. If we can just do all of the prescribed ‘summery’ things, we’re doing summer right—right?
As we pile into the car for another “Yes, we are going to [insert fun place here] and you WILL like it!” outing, and the face I’m wearing is tight and resolved, my youngest says, “Mama, maybe we just need to slow down?”
With that poignant observation from my 8-year-old, I’m tempted to look around for the narrator of my life (maybe Morgan Freeman?) to pop out of the bushes and declare: “It was then that she knew it was time to pause.”
My son is right. In all of the doing, I am (and thus, we are) missing out.
As I half-heartedly finish loading my mom-bus with the day’s snacks, suits, and sunscreen, I’m forced to make an ironic admission that, in this season soaked with pools, sprinklers, and Slip ‘N Slides, I am dried out. Physically, emotionally, and worse yet, spiritually.
How did I get here—again?
It occurred to me that I had been approaching both my spiritual and literal seasons like they were bucket lists:
Pool, picnic, backyard campout. Check.
Quiet time, devotions, prayer. Check.
In Sunday School, I remember learning the story of God’s people and the golden calf (Exodus 32). While Moses was on the mountain meeting with God, the Israelites grew restless waiting for Him. It was during that undefined and uncomfortable wait that their lack of trust was exposed. In Moses’s absence, they created a golden calf, choosing to replace their faith in God with the creation and worship of a substitute. I recall being confused about how God’s people could have done this. They knew Moses was meeting with God on their behalf. They knew God and had experienced His love for them in miraculous ways, yet they traded their faith and trust in God for something that provided immediate gratification. Something false. Something they could control.
I may not have understood their choice, but here I was, trying to take control of summer by filling the hours and fashioning idols from my time and activities and to-do lists. I’m not so different from the Hebrews, choosing immediacy and control over resting in God.
This isn’t the first time I’ve made unfruitful choices, but what I’ve learned is this: If I’m walking through a dry season, spiritually coasting, or feeling apathetic, it may be that I’m too closely clutching what I think I can control. It may be that I’ve forgotten to rest under the sovereign control of God.
A few weeks ago, when we used our fire pit for the first time this season, one of my boys said, “Mom, I know it’s fun to have a fire, but I forgot how special it is.” His care to reflect on the value of shared time together by the fire helped me see that remembering is a powerful antidote for apathy—including spiritual coasting.
When we do something repeatedly, we can easily forget why we are doing it. Add in an affinity for perfectionism, and it’s tempting to be distracted by and satisfied with simply checking the boxes. Sometimes, to remember what a blessing something is, we need to see and experience it as if we were encountering it for the first time. To grasp anew the magic of gathering around the fire, we simply needed to light the fire again.
It’s the same with my walk with God. How do I manage to spend time in the Word without actually drawing near to Him? I talk to Him but fail to listen. I go through the motions but forget to connect.
How can we light the fire again? How can we make space for the sacred? How can we rediscover awe?
It’s all linked together, isn’t it? If I lose my fire and fail to make space for the sacred, I will also fail to see the beauty and awe in the simple things like raising my children, loving others, or enjoying summer. When I surrender my schedule, my perfectionism, my checklists; when I trade in filling the hours for filling my parched, forgetful heart; when I soak in Living Water and make space to know Him deeper and hear Him louder, my heart is once again fueled by wonder and awe.
The only way I know to make this shift, to quench the dry places, is to sit at His feet. I have to slow down and draw near. He invites me to listen to Him through prayer and His Word. I turn to the Psalms and read:
“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them” (Psalms 8:3-4, NLT)?
These verses awaken me. The God who speaks to me when I pause to listen is the same God who scattered the stars, arranging their height and depth and width just so. The night sky, set perfectly and unchangingly in place, shines down on me every night with the promise of setting and centering me if only I offer up a single, intentional gaze.
Sometimes, it takes something like a summer’s night sky, something bigger than ourselves to see how our plans and agendas pale in comparison to His plan and His presence. Sometimes, a more intimate glimpse of something so big and beautiful, like the craters of the moon, allows us also to see afresh the overlooked beauty in our known, familiar small.
If He is intentional to set the stars in place, then He is equally intentional to set me exactly where I am supposed to be. He cares about my summer and winter and every day in between.
In this season, I have a choice: I can choose to coast in dryness or I can soak Him in. I can choose to check the lists or pause to listen for His guiding whisper.
This summer, I will surrender my agenda and ask God for His. I will slow down and embrace awe. And I will delight in the seemingly small, yet eternally significant moments that connect me with God and remind me who He is.
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Wow! Just this morning I stopped my scripture writing in mid-verse to ask myself what on earth am I doing? Spending time with God? Is this what God wants with me? Copying scripture, copying commentary? That’s not conversation. That’s . . . Homework! It’s not a relationship! I get so used to my routine with God; that’s exactly what it becomes – routine! I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets stuck in spiritual ruts – life ruts! Although the last couple months have been less rut-like, because my husband has been in the hospital, first for heart problems, then kidney problems. It’s been more like a roller coaster. Now that he’s home, and the TV is on most of the time, life has returned to some sort of normal. When he goes back to work it will be normal! Also my time with the Lord is sometimes rushed, to get it done – checked off – before my husband gets up. Yesterday it didn’t happen at all because of appointments. Whew! Thank you for sharing your struggles!
Amy, I’m so glad this met you where you are today! And it’s meeting me again, too. My prayer is that we surrender the summer – let’s be sure we make room to meet with HIM!
I have been so caught up in my to-do list and my career that I have been missing out on spending time with and appreciating my husband. This article has motivated me to recognize that our marriage is God’s gift that I need to cherish. I will treasure the beautiful moments we have together this summer. Thank you, Marnie!