What do Louisa May Alcott and Little Women, Jane Austen and Northanger Abbey, and sixteenth-century author Margaret Cavendish all have in common? If you answered that they are all authors, you’re correct. If you have no idea, that’s also perfectly acceptable; I didn’t know who Cavendish was until two months ago. These three authors are the topics of my first three graduate school seminar papers. With a minimum of 15 pages required for each paper, I currently feel as though I have emptied my mind of every intelligent-sounding argument, and words are becoming increasingly difficult to string together coherently. How long is too long to stare at a blinking cursor while trying to come up with just four more pages or remember a synonym for “opposite”?
It is during these times of mental exhaustion when I’m reminded that my life isn’t being graded. If it were, God knows that most days I’d barely be passing. It is incredibly easy to fall into the trap of perfectionism—to think that one mistake equals instant failure, to fear the future, and obsess over each stressful detail as though it were all-important. But this is not how we’re called to live.
The Bible says in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV). I don’t know about you, but I crave that peace even as I cram my busy life so full that I wouldn’t recognize peace if it showed up on my doorstep with a chick flick and a carton of mint chip ice cream.
So, if you’re overwhelmed by a stack of unfinished tasks and all the holiday shopping still to be done or dreading those stressful family gatherings, take a moment to breathe. Pray. Say thank you. And pause to recognize the peace that is truly available to us in every instant if we’re paying attention–and if we’re willing to rest.