by Sarah Catherine Straw
Exist-y is definitely not a word recognized by Merriam Webster. But it should be. When I sit on the couch in my therapist’s office, when I'm having a conversation with my parents on the phone, when I'm sitting across the table from friends over dinner, they inevitably ask me, “How are you feeling?” And often times the most accurate answer I can muster up is, “I'm feeling exist-y.”
I'm feeling exist-y. Not fully here. Not fully absent. A little (lot) distracted. A bit hurt and confused – broken, maybe. Grateful for what I have and all the blessings in my life, but meanwhile hurting and longing for just a bit more – maybe not more things or blessings, but rather something a bit...different.
I start each day with the same routine and I end each day with the same routine. I am a creature of habit. I spend my days checking things off of my notorious to-do list – an ever-looming cloud over my head that I speak fondly of and feel as though I can't live without. But really, that to-do list is controlling my life. It dictates where I go, when I go there, what I do, who I spend time with, who I share love with, and on and on and on.
My life is occupied – but only to the extent to which I am able to exist. And so we've come full circle: I feel exist-y.
Life doesn't have to be one grand adventure after the next. There is beauty and reverence to be found in the peaceful, still moments – the early mornings, the daily routines, the never-changing habits that we form. We don't have to be constantly striving, reaching, checking off our to-do lists, and achieving new things in order to be pleasing to God. We don't have to constantly be exhausted in order to be adequate Christians.
However, in the daily routines we form and in the day to day rush of checking off our to-do lists, it's easy to slip into barely feeling exist-y. We can easily lose our focus and our intentions can shift from living Godly lives and witnessing to others into simply getting everything done that the world is demanding of us. We can go from having God's “occupied” sign on our hearts to having the worlds demands ripping us to shreds.
No matter what we do or don't do on any given day – no matter how much or how little of our to-do list gets checked off, it's so vital to our spiritual and emotional wellbeing that we continuously strive to live like we are loved by the Almighty King.
When we live like we are loved by Christ, there's no way that we can feel exist-y. Even the most menial tasks can be used to honor him – and can even be used to witness to others.
In the days, weeks, maybe even months that life is NOT a grand adventure we can use our routines and habits to bring those around us closer to Christ. When others see an “occupied” sign on our hearts, they are going to get curious about how we live our lives and how we are able to maintain joy and peace in the most mundane circumstances.
For the longest time I believed that the way to be an example of a Godly life was to be happy and loving and carefree all the time! I believed that if other people saw my grief, my hurt, my sadness that they would somehow misinterpret that as God punishing me – maybe I even misinterpreted it as that at times. But the Scripture tells us that we will all go through different seasons of life and some (many) of these seasons may include trials, mountains to climb, etc.
In her book, “No More Faking Fine,” Esther Fleece stated, “We are robbing ourselves of a divine mystery and a divine intimacy when we pretend to have it all together. In fact, we lose an entire vocabulary from our prayers when we silence the reality of our pain.”
And so, I'm here to tell you – God speaks to others through our triumphs, but He screams especially loud at others through our pains and trials. God takes our grief and uses it to alter not only our lives, but the lives of those around us. Getting to witness someone's transformation through pain can sometimes transform those of us witnessing it more than the person experiencing it firsthand.
When we are our true selves – all the mess, the grief, the silliness, the good times, and especially the bad times – we are allowing others to see how Christ uses the good AND the bad to work in and through us. When we allow Jesus to hang an “occupied” sign on the doors of our hearts, others will slowly begin to wonder what's behind that door and they may even step up and knock in order to see for themselves what it's all about.
We don't have to go through our lives simply feeling “exist-y.” We were made for so much more, with so much more strength and endurance than we even realize. We have a divine purpose and we were sent from the Kingdom of heaven!
Our pain is an invitation. Our joy is an invitation. Our love is an invitation. Our silliness is an invitation. Our grief, heartache, loss, transformation, peace, happiness, our delight – they are all invitations to the people in our lives. We may think we go unnoticed, but people around us are absorbing what we do and say – watching us and learning from us. We have to consider what we want them to learn when they examine out lives?! Let's extend an invitation – an invitation to allow Jesus to enter into their hearts and occupy their lives and their souls for eternity. It could be the grandest invitation we ever extend.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” - Oscar Wilde
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15