Many years ago, at a nearby retreat center, I was sitting outside my bedroom door and pondering the view. Bark chips. Thousands of them.
I hadn’t been to that location since they had remodeled. I was disappointed at the lack of grass. Why bark chips? To me, grass would have been more soothing and beautiful. Instead I was greeted by a large, dry spread of little pieces of wood.
As I stared at the bark chips I began to realize that they were the perfect metaphor for the multitude of thoughts in my head. It was representative of the inner clutter I had brought with me to the time away in solitude.
I sat in the chair on my little porch and told God that I was looking forward to how he would meet with me over the next 24 hours. How would I become free from the clutter?
I got to the end of my 24-hour retreat and a few things had shaken down in the process. I realized the swirl in my head was not simply the details of my life, but mostly my over-processing of them.
I had been reading Sacred Companions by David Benner. In one of the chapters he encouraged a friend not to second-guess what God was up to or over analyze what one was supposed to learn from a situation. In the context he was in no way negating the thoughtful pondering of God's work in your life. There are times, however, when too much thinking or analyzing is not helpful. Sometimes we get stuck in our head and it can lead to unhealthy inaction.
Over the years I have grown in this area. I still tend to analyze. But I don’t get stuck as often as I used to. Back then, I would spin around by asking “why” or by seeking control of a situation by over thinking. I’d get side tracked by others' opinions and my own emotions which were ever changing. I would exhaust myself with over-analysis.
During my time at the retreat center I was deeply encouraged by two passages on peace:
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27, NLT)
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.” (John 16:33, The Message)
I couldn’t, by my own efforts, make the bark chips of my inner clutter go away. I could, however, receive the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ. I could continue to attune myself to God in the midst. That’s what that time of retreat was. A time for the dust to settle and for me to remember what is always true. God is present and he gives peace.
Finding this voice of peace is like being in a large, bustling crowd and tuning into one voice among the throng. He is there, speaking, leading and loving. I am still learning to be still to listen and receive.
- How do you sometimes overthink relationships or situations?
- What does this overthinking lead to (emotions, actions)?
- How might you encounter the Prince of Peace today?
- How might you make your way to being “unshakable and assured, deeply at peace"?