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Leading the Laity: Take time to restore your soul: find your own quiet center

Posted: August 30 2023 at 10:55 AM
Author: Connie Augsburger, NIC Co-Lay Leader

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It’s hardly an earth-shattering revelation to comment on the turmoil in the world today. At every level of society and in every corner of the Earth, people are suffering, forests are burning, rivers are overflowing their banks, governments and the folks they’re meant to serve are clashing and neighbors are fighting their neighbors. The list goes on and on. I’m not suggesting the end is at hand, and I have no idea whether the chaos we’re currently witnessing is greater or lesser than people in other times have witnessed. Wiser and more learned heads than mine can make pronouncements if they wish. I offer nothing more than a simple thought: take time to restore your own soul, no matter what is going on around you. If each one of us takes the time to rest and refresh, we can better equip ourselves to handle whatever comes next and to better serve those around us who are in need.  
We hear the phrase “self-care” a lot these days. The concept dates back millennia. Maybe now is a good time to revisit wise words from the Holy book. Open up to Psalm 23 and offer a reviving drink to your thirsting heart and soul. First prepare yourself by finding a quiet place to sit: away from the cat or dog, radio or television, computer or phone.  Just power down and give yourself the time and space to breathe. Close your eyes and just be.

The Lord, our shepherd, will surround you in these moments of solitude, and you will need nothing but your faith. Picture the green pastures; feel the soft grass beneath your feet; inhale the gentle scents of nature.  Imagine the still waters; touch the cool surface and see tiny ripples move out from your fingertips; listen to the almost imperceptible current. It’s there. I promise you it’s there if you will allow your soul to open up and receive God’s presence.

When we take time out from the routine and the often petty cares of the day, we can find that quiet center and replenish ourselves to go the next mile. I’m not offering empty platitudes. Dr. Cleo Williamson, clinical psychologist at University College Hospital, London,  and a consultant for the UK-based Point of Care Foundation, says it’s important to recognize the need to refresh our perspective so we can keep our values in focus. The everyday grind can lead us to accept as normal things that go against our grain and irritate our senses. Compassion fatigue is real; burnout is real. Just ask a doctor or a nurse. Check in with a waitress or a sales clerk or a teacher or your pastor: life can wear us down. We can wear each other down. Shelly Esher, executive editor of the online faith-based magazine Just Between Us, asks whether peace is even possible in this noisy world. She suggests that there is a transformative quality to seeking solitude and to quieting the noise around us so we can hear and feel God with us.

In my own life, I feel that fatigue when one more person asks for help. (I’m the interim director of the Winnebago County Law Library and Self-Help Center; my job is to answer questions and help people find solutions to all kinds of difficult legal situations.) I wonder who is helping me. I get irritated that people seem so needy. That’s when, whether I realize it or not, I must refresh my perspective and seek a slice of solitude. I need to be refreshed, and the best, the surest way to do that is to “find the quiet center,” as envisioned in the lovely hymn by Shirley Erena Murray.

When I do that, I know that God is with me and strengthens me. I take the time and the space to allow hope to enter into my heart, my soul to be restored: to “be at peace and simply be.”

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