It was my first week of classes. I was a scared 18-year-old kid, hoping that I wouldn’t be called on, expected to give an answer to something I hadn’t studied yet. My professor, who is completely convinced that most failure is due to bad self-care, was ranting on about how we need to take care of ourselves. I didn’t realize then, just how important her tirades about such topics truly were, and I wouldn’t until I had graduated.
She was commenting on how unhealthy all-nighters are, but it seems that all college students seemingly thrive off the adrenaline of little to no sleep, energy drinks and coffee, ramen noodles, and an impending deadline.
She closed her rant about sleep and healthy lifestyles with such a simple, but potent idea. She said;
“Find your God place. Make room for rest and spiritual moments, times to listen, learn, and grow.”
That idea perplexed me. What does it mean to have a God place? What actions or mindset are required for such a place?
As my first semester continued on, assignments began piling up, and with it stress become more apparent and available. I remember walking one afternoon, before dinner, to a nearby park and hiking trail.
The Kankakee River runs through the area, so there is slight sound of rolling water, as well as trees to help dampen the noise of traffic, and to give some semblance of solitude.
I remember walking, finding a place to sit, and merely looking out into the world. This walk was an escape from responsibility, which was slowly suffocating me. Never before had my dorm room felt like such a prison, with just me, my assignments, and anxiety. It’s hard to think, when all that runs through your mind is a list of to-do’s.
Sitting on that rock, looking at nature –water, trees, birds, and all else that comes with the territory- I began to understand the idea expressed to me, just a few months earlier.
I had found my God place.
In my four years at Olivet, I would go to the same trail quite often. Whenever I needed to think, or just breathe, I would walk those same steps and breathe that same fresh air. I would give myself the space to breathe an unencumbered breath, rest my mind, and feast my eyes on the beauty of the world just outside my dormitory.
I heard once, that in the busyness of life, it is as if we are constantly exhaling. We work a full shift today. Exhale. We have to run to the grocery store, do errands, run the car to the shop, find time for a group project meeting. Exhale. We have homework, papers, presentations, friends, family, a significant other. Exhale. Exhale. Exhale.
We’re so busy exhaling, that we never remember to take the time to inhale. Or we fully recognize that we need to inhale, but there’s just too much to do. What’s worse is that we as a culture have begun to feel the ill-effects of our oxygen deprivation, and yet we make no effort to lighten the load, even momentarily.
Something I should note, is that a God place can be anywhere, and it looks different depending on the person.
For some, it’s their bedroom, or their kitchen table, with a steaming cup of coffee. For others, it is their car, with music blaring, featuring a concert, in which they’re the headliner. For a few, it is an empty church sanctuary, in which they can scream to the heavens, making certain God can hear them. I have friends who have a specific chair, where they sit every day, and just inhale for a moment.
For me, it is a walking trail. I have a tendency to get claustrophobic in spaces like my home, or work. I can become overrun and overwhelmed with ideas, responsibilities, and the like, and I need to get out into the world –which is wide and vast- just so I can remind myself how small I am, and how small my worries are in the grand scope of reality.
When I found my God place, I found an area to remind myself that I am not the end-all, be-all, and that the world does not cease to exist when I fail. I am just another human in a long line of other humans, and that there is something beautiful about realizing your place in the vastness.
Find your God place. You might not be religious, and this terminology may be uncomfortable for you. In which case I would say, find your safe space. All this means is a place where you can go exist without the worry of production, drama, a false façade or mask you wear, it is a place where you can be entirely yourself, and completely honest.
True rest only happens when you feel safe, so what does that look like for you?
As I said, there is no one-size-fits-all safe space for people. It can look very different depending on the person. Although, I do believe the impact and effect is the same across the board. Your God place is a space where you can rest. It is a place where you can be refreshed, renewed, and restored.
So where is your place? If, while reading this, you immediately had a picture come to mind, a place in which you feel refreshed, it’s safe to say you already have a place to rest your soul. In which case, congratulations. Take a deep breath, and inhale. Although, there are those who are more like me, who just keep running, rushing, exhaling. People who keep going until they run out of oxygen altogether, but no doubt they will eventually collapse and burn out. I nearly guarantee it.
For those of you like me, I ask that you do yourself a favor; go out and find a place to rest. Find renewal and restoration. Find your God place.