Snuggling up next to me on the couch, my son settled in for a good story. He was home sick from school and thoroughly enjoying a little quiet time with my undivided attention. After a hectic week, both of us enjoyed slowing down to read a favorite illustrated book from his childhood: Jennifer and Josephine by Bill Peet.
Told from the perspective of a stray cat named Josephine, the story describes her days spent living in the back seat of an old touring car. The opening scene depicts a junkyard with the rusted out car, named Jennifer, slowly falling apart. Much to Josephine’s surprise, however, a traveling salesman buys the old car planning to drive her hard until she dies.
After riding in the backseat for a few miles, Josephine nicknames the salesman “Mr. Frenzy,” highlighting his constant rush to get from one place to the next. She describes him as a pushy, rude bully who drives Jennifer quickly and carelessly over winding country roads. Mr. Frenzy takes one risk after another, with no heed for other drivers or the property that he destroys along the way.
Reading the story made me think of times when I could be nicknamed “Mrs. Frenzy.” The busier I become and the more I cram into my schedule, the less sensitive I become to those around me. There is an illusion of control that comes with packing my schedule full. However, when I leave no margin in my time, I become thoughtless, impatient and irritable. Anything that stands in the way of accomplishing my agenda becomes an obstacle to be removed.
Usually, when I’m behaving like “Mrs. Frenzy,” I leave a wake of destruction in my path, much like the traveling salesman in the Bill Peet story. For starters, my frantic pace causes me to ignore basic household tasks: piles of clean laundry sit for days waiting to be folded and unopened mail clutters the counter. As I let the urgent overshadow the important, I become insensitive to people and don’t tend to relationships the way I should. In my frenzied state, I’m not open to being interrupted by people who need my help or attention. And most important of all, my frantic pace causes me to feel impatient even when I’m trying to spend time with God.
It’s funny how the Lord sends the same message in different ways until we finally receive it. The same week I read the story about Mr. Frenzy to my son, I’d read a devotion entitled “Silencing My Soul” that convicted me in a similar way. Using a psalm as her inspiration, the author challenges readers to spend five minutes daily being still before God, just listening for His voice and enjoying His presence: “But I have stilled and quieted my soul.” (Psalm 131:2, NIV)
The day I read it, I was already heading toward “Mrs. Frenzy” mode and had been rushing through my quiet time so I could get on with my day. Reading the printed prayer at the end of the entry convicted me: “Dear Lord, my soul is having a hard time being still. I lay down my resistance to silence, and commit to five minutes of daily silence with You for the next month. I praise You in advance for what You are going to say to me in the silence. Thank You for the rest only You can give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” (Wendy Pope, Encouragement for Today, p. 26)
It was no coincidence that I read that devotional on a day when I was in a rush. It was yet another reminder that I need to focus on God’s agenda for my day instead of trying to maintain a frenzied pace attempting to get everything done. It’s amazing how trusting Him allows me to accomplish exactly what I need to do. I guess that’s a picture of Jesus’ words:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)
The “yoke” described here is a tool used for plowing a field. It is a curved piece of wood with two slots fitted over a pair of oxen. Imagine how unbalanced it would be to have one animal trying to carry a yoke meant for two. Similarly, when we try to carry our burdens on our own, we feel weary and beaten down. For someone like me, the added weight causes me to feel frenzied and overwhelmed. However, when we yoke ourselves to Jesus, He gives us the strength we need because we are walking in step with Him. There is no need to be frantic when the Maker of the earth and stars walks beside us and shares the load.
One of my favorite verses is Psalm 46:10, “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” (NIV)
Another translation says: “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NASB)
When we take time to be still, God reminds us He is Lord of all and we are not. Our striving is a vain attempt to be in control of our lives. Ultimately, it makes us exhausted and depleted. However, when we quiet our souls, we are reminded to put God in His proper place as the main focus and priority in our lives.
When I’m “Mrs. Frenzy,” my priorities are based on my agenda. I’m wild-eyed, impatient and definitely not someone who is restful to be around (just ask my family). In conquer mode, I usually do a lot more harm than good. However, when I’ve taken time to be still and have spent time being filled up by the Holy Spirit. I give God room to bless others through me. I’m at peace, which allows others to be restful in my presence.
Will you join me in taking the challenge to spend five minutes being still before God every day for a month? You might be surprised at how long it feels as you try to empty your mind and focus solely on resting in Him. I’ll give you a little boost for your first time– just click on the link and listen to “Be Still and Know” by Stephen Curtis Chapman. If you can be still for 3 minutes and 16 seconds to listen to this song then you only have another minute and 44 seconds to go!
Peet, Bill: Jennifer and Josephine; Houghton Mifflin; 1967.
Swope, Renee; TerKeurst, Lysa; Evilsizer, Samantha and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Teams; Encouragement for Today; Zondervan; 2013.