In December of my freshman year of college, I experienced the greatest heartbreak I have ever had the privilege of enduring. The event threw my mind into confusion and hurt, so I spent the next 10 months keeping myself ridiculously busy in hopes of distracting myself from an endless loop of thought I couldn’t seem to break. With this process underway, caring for others kind of went out the window.
The following summer, someone asked me what I think about. I had not contemplated the question before and so pondered it on and off from that point forward. Seven weeks into the school semester that fall, a solid answer had formed: myself.
Self-awareness is a good thing and one should take time to reflect on their standing, but such musings had become the dominant occupant of my thoughts. I spent about every waking moment running one idea or another, trying to make sense of my situation and will myself to change how I felt about it. Every few cycles I became so bogged down and lost in my head that I began to lose sight of my dreams, my purpose, and my identity.
Still, I remained busy, rushing from one event to the next and pushing through one task after another. Yet it was the times when life would pause and I found myself sitting across from another person that I felt the sanest. It was when I was engaged in a passionate conversation, listening to a friend pour out what was on their heart, or fervently praying for another that I regained a sense of the reason for existence and my will to keep going was refreshed. It was moments like those where I realized more than ever that we need other people to get us out of our heads and grounded in reality.
“In a perfect world, we think about God and others more than ourselves.”
— Rick Thomas, Get Ready
In short, your purpose is to love God and love others (Matt 22:34-40). That is why you are here on earth. You were not given this day because you need it but because someone else needs you, and not just your inner-circle of friends. While those who are closest to me are blessings from God who have been with me through thick and thin, I should reach beyond them and spend time getting to know those farther out on my social circles. There are a few ways I’ve considered to walk out these thoughts.
1. Free your schedule. While you and I have God-given responsibilities to attend to, we should not be so busy that we can not follow the Spirit’s pneumatic moving. I had a girl come up to me and propose that we get coffee. She gave me five potential times, each of which I was busy with a prior commitment. My schedule is organized in a way that I only have time for my closest friends, and that needs to change.
2. Keep a prayer journal. For the past 10 years I have often concluded my day through reflection. These entries are primarily focused on how I feel or (as of late) my confusion on how I feel. In alliance with these thoughts, I’ve considered starting an others-centered prayer journal where I actually act on all the times I’ve said “I’ll pray for that.” Being my minimalistic self, however, I’d rather not keep multiple journals and so considered just changing the dynamic of my journal. Instead of reflecting on how I’m doing about my situations, what if I walked through my day and recorded how the people I interacted with are doing, giving thought to their cares and praying for them? This would grow an affection and curiosity in me that would improve my attention and heart motive in conversation and, simultaneously, my mental health.