Grown Ups Need Timeouts Too


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.


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.

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
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin

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