I was with a friend a few months ago, and he was sharing with me how many good causes there were to join in on and how distracting it can be. When we are passionate about justice and change, it is so easy to want to be part of so many movements, offer our time and our heart and our energy to help be part of changing oppressive systems. To support the work of our friends. To be a good advocate. To participate instead of stand on the sidelines.
As he was sharing, I had this image that I know was for me as much as it was for him. It was of a flowing river. Picture it: powerful, moving, alive, pouring over the rocks, pulling in the direction it’s supposed to pull. And off that flowing river, I saw a bunch of little side streams. Some were bigger than others, and they all were pretty and wound around in all different directions.
These forks weren’t desolate or ugly. In fact, they were pretty, too, in a different way. But those forks didn’t have flow. They were side trails that, while good, take energy and divert from the flow.
There are technical terms for this related to a river—tributaries and distributaries—depending on which direction they go, but the technicalities don’t matter. What matters is the reality: while all of the side streams are all well and good, they aren’t part of the flow. I have to be careful about going off on them and letting them take all my energy.
This is so easy to say and really hard to do.
In my life, I have so many side projects, passions, people I love and respect who I want to partner with and support, and so many opportunities to contribute and play.
All of these things do, indeed, matter to me.
Organizations who care about justice.
Conversations about unity in the church.
Groups of friends who are advocating for things I deeply resonate with.
Artists creating all kinds of beauty and hope.
Spiritual guides curating unique and lovely contemplative spaces.
Activists working to change laws.
I want to be involved and I want to be part. I love playing with others.
I love all these causes and initiatives and events and ways to collaborate and influence change. But oh, I have felt it in my bones, how easy it is to become pulled in so many different directions that in the end, the flow is choked off.
When this happens, there’s too much energy going in a whole bunch of little directions and not enough going in the one big stream I am personally called to.
I don’t think this is an either/or moment. I believe firmly in paradox and the reality that both can exist. That it’s possible to spend my energy mainly in my flow AND be part of these side streams that all are part of the same river.
The danger is not being clear on what is part of the flow and what isn’t. What is there really margin and energy for and what there isn’t. What’s realistic and what isn’t. What’s the direction I’m supposed to be going and what’s just a detour?
Oh, I have no easy answers or formulas for anyone, because I think it’s so much more complicated than just “do this, don’t do that.” But I have been thinking a lot about this since my conversation with my friend.
I’ve been trying to notice my soul and how weary it sometimes becomes. I’ve been trying to consider where to offer my time and passion and where to say no. Mostly, I’ve been trying to do what’s often the most difficult thing for me—accept my humanness and limitations. I just can’t do everything I want to do, good little streams or not.
It’s sometimes painful.
It’s not just about FOMO—fear of missing out (although I will admit, it’s in there, too). It really is about wanting to be part of so many amazing things that are happening around me and that I deeply care about. But I have to be so careful about the detours and the side-streams, and stick with what I am truly most passionate about: nurturing and creating healing and transformational community and safe spaces.
It doesn’t mean I don’t show up at local social justice events or contemplative retreats or political rallies. It doesn’t mean I am not part of several networks of friends who are doing great work in the city or have challenging conversations about the wider church or a host of other things I truly love to do.
Those things all help with the overall flow.
But I’ve got to be more honest and realistic with what I most care about. What I’m best at. That which is my heartbeat and my lifeblood, what I wake up thinking about each and every morning of each and every day. That’s my flow. That’s my passion. That’s the thing that I want to be careful of getting detoured from.
SheLovelys, this post isn’t about beating ourselves up for doing too much or caring too much or not managing our time enough. We’ve got enough of that in every direction already! But what I’m hoping for me, and for those of you struggling with it, too, is that we keep finding our flow and have the courage to acknowledge and honor it so its life force doesn’t get choked off with a lot of other good things.
How are you finding your flow?