Grown Ups Need Timeouts Too

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claire colvin -adult timeout3

Recently, a friend of mine posted a verse on Instagram. Psalm 84:5-7, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you … they go from strength to strength.” It’s a perfectly lovely verse, but as I read it, the words that came out of my mouth were an accusation.

“That’s not true,” I muttered.

And I stopped in my tracks. Did I really just say that? Did I really believe that? Was my honest, straight-from-the-stomach response to a Bible verse to call it lies?

I put myself in a timeout.

I wasn’t ready to let a comment like that go. If I truly believed that the Bible was lying to me, then I had some serious reckoning to do. I stopped what I was doing and sat still to really think about what I’d said.

Why didn’t I think the verse was true? I didn’t feel like I was going from strength to strength. What I felt was quite the opposite. They always say you have to let kids feel their feelings and then teach them appropriate ways to express and deal with those feelings. Well I was feeling frustrated and resentful. I was able to name my feelings, so that’s a good first step. But was I dealing with these feelings in an appropriate way? No, I wasn’t.

I didn’t really think that the Bible was lying to me. I know God. I know that I can trust God. In my frustration I lashed out. It was time to find a better way.

I had two options: Either God was lying or I was wrong. That was a pretty easy equation to work out. Clearly, I was wrong. So I took another look at the verse. If it says that we go from strength to strength and I didn’t feel like I was going from strength to strength, maybe the strength was there. I just didn’t see it.

Oh.

It was a much-needed moment of revelation. I started looking for strengths. I made myself list them out and surprise, surprise, God was right. The strengths were there. They didn’t look the way I expected them to, but they were there. I just hadn’t noticed them before.

I’m learning that in the times when it feels like God isn’t there, it’s because I’ve stopped looking, not because God is actually absent. I ground myself with a couple of simple but important questions:

What do I know about God?
Is what I know about God still true?

If I can answer these two questions, I can usually find my way back from there.

There’s a scene in the 1987 classic film The Princess Bride where the main characters’ plan has failed and they have been separated. Everything has gone wrong. The scene opens up with one of the swordsmen, Inigo, sitting on the floor of a hut, explaining why he refuses to leave. (For other reasons that don’t matter here, the prince has given orders that the village be cleared of all inhabitants.)

Inigo says, “When the job went wrong we went back to the beginning. Well, this is where we got the job, so it’s the beginning.”

It’s a silly line in a silly movie, but I find it often comes to mind. When I’m not sure what the next step in this journey of faith is, it helps to go back to the beginning. I have been in a long and drawn out battle for a while now. It’s slow and often painful, lonely and hard. There have been so many moments when I genuinely questioned what God is up to and if there can really be a purpose in this odd and unwanted road. When I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing, I go back to the beginning. I reset my compass to the things I know for sure.

We know that kids often need a timeout to reset, to take a breath, to refocus and calm down. I don’t know why I forget that as I an adult I still need that sometimes. When my attitude gets away from me, when I’m not expressing and dealing with my feelings in an appropriate manner–when I snark at God and call God a liar—I need to stop what I’m doing and reassess.

I’m learning that knowing when I need a timeout is just as much a part of my self-care as knowing when I need more sleep or more vegetables. Attitudes aren’t forged overnight; they’re built brick by brick over time, for better or for worse. That process doesn’t stop once you’re old enough to vote. I didn’t know that I could say something that would shock me, but I’m glad that I noticed it and was able to deal with it.

I’m glad I remembered to go back to the beginning.

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin

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Claire Colvin
  • I know for me, Advent is often a “time out,” so I’m looking forward to the re-set I experience when I go back to the beginning of why I believe. Thanks for framing it in this way, Claire.

    • I love the idea of Advent as a time out. What a good idea!

  • Kelly Christian

    i think we all need to see what each other’s processes look like sometimes and i enjoyed seeing yours. you’re right, we don’t forge perspectives overnight, and also where we really are is something that might take some time to uncover. i appreciated you unfurling what was going on underneath your doubt and not just calling it a wrong thought and being done. that way when you’re done with the “reckoning” you know where you are and what you believe more clearly, or what you need to ask God to believe more. thanks for the post :).

    • One of the incredible things about God is that we can always come back – whether we’ve wandered way off the path or are just slightly out of step. There is so much hope in that. I think for me it was a but comforting to realize that what I was feeling was frustration more than actual doubt (although I’ve felt that at times too) and being able to name the thing and address the thing and choose differently really helped.

  • Yes! We often call timeouts “resets” around here. And I’m usually the one who needs it more than the girls. 😉 I love this idea of resetting with God, of going back to the beginning. I don’t do this often enough and it’s pretty difficult to remove those carefully laid bricks. Thank you for this perspective, especially as we enter into Advent.

  • pastordt

    Ain’t it the truth? Time-outs are good, good things — for all of us. Good on you for recognizing it was time.

  • Thanks, Claire! What a great reminder to be pause and be reflective. Feelings are fickle things and they aren’t always rational. Sometimes we don’t feel strong because we’re going through something hard and, yet, we’re measuring our performance and our feelings against how we feel when times are easy. You’re right that we sometimes need to stop and look at our situation to be able to see that the strength is there, it just looks different in different circumstances.