In my continued efforts to embrace healthier habits, I recently purchased a half-gallon water jug.
It has little marks down the side with the time of day, so that you can have a visual reminder to drink throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening. It’s easy to carry despite its size and it holds a lot of ice.
When I first bought it, I was surprised at my own consistency—and need for hydration. I kept up a good streak of finishing off the bottle. Yesterday I had the half gallon polished off before the end of the workday. I was on track for hydration success.
And then today happened.
I had an hourlong presentation to deliver, and I prepared the slides the day before—but hadn’t had time to rehearse like I wanted because a colleague called with a question that took up 45 minutes. And then I had a bunch of other fires to put out, which meant that at 7:30am I was rehearsing—and then prepping for another presentation tomorrow—and then answering emails—and then finishing up some projects—and then attending meetings—and then presenting–
At the end of the workday I worked downstairs, saw the empty jug sitting on the counter, and marveled to my husband, “I didn’t drink anything all day but one cup of coffee!”
It’s hard to stop.
But more and more, I realize that the stop is necessary if I want to hear God. Stop doing. Stop planning. Stop fretting. Stop thinking through outcomes. Stop long enough to listen. Wait. Sometimes, if you give something time to breathe, God will reveal an answer to you.
An opportunity came up for me recently. Well, two opportunities. I wasn’t sure which to pursue. A or B? A or B? One person I knew told me I’d be great at A; another, great at B. I ping-ponged for a few days. I need to talk to some people and get advice and think this through and see what my odds of success are with either opportunity and get some more people’s thoughts and—
When I asked my husband for advice, he said, “Why not take a day or so, and just think it over?”
I decided to stop. To let it breathe. I said to God, if there’s something I need to know or consider, could you address it? And over the two days I stopped to consider it, He did. In a subtle, natural way that I would have missed or averted entirely if I had forced the issue.
Lately, when something perplexing or difficult comes up, I am resisting my default state: to problem-solve, to commit or not commit, to do the thing or refuse the thing. Instead, I think to myself, well, this is happening, and I turn to God and point and say, well, this is happening, and do you have any thoughts?
And then for a little while, I let it go.
God doesn’t always send some definitive message. But in the waiting time I find I’m better able to discern my own thoughts and actions. I have a cooler head. In the moment, or when I feel jolted into action, I tend to miss things. I forget to drink water. I run headlong into whatever my immediate impulse is. It’s nice to get away from that.
Recently, someone I know sent an incendiary email to a colleague. My colleague shared it with me, bewildered, and asked, “Well? What would you do?”
Old me would have encouraged her to write up a 42-point rebuttal.
But instead, I opened my mouth, shut it. “Maybe just give it a day or so,” I said. “See how you feel.”
She nodded. “Yeah. Sleep on it.”
It was a good confirmation of a beneficial practice. And remember – the blessing of pausing and waiting is not that you’ll always make a perfect decision or that God will miraculously intervene. It’s that in one small, concrete way, you are making space for God, and setting yourself aside. You are practicing a little surrender. You are living out some proverbs. You are learning how to be a Christian who values thoughtful silence, listening, and consideration.
That’s a lot better than a half gallon of water.