My Calendar is Holding Me Hostage

9:34 AMHeather

It was the kind of dream that wakes you up from a dead sleep. Terrifying. So scary that you are afraid to close your eyes again, lest the dream continue. So real that in your half-awake state of mind, you say to yourself that it was just a dream. 

I mentally uttered a quick prayer that it would not continue when I closed my eyes again. I couldn't keep them open in sleepy fog, so I lay back down and hoped for the best.

Thankfully, it didn't continue.

But when my alarm went off this morning, it was as vivid to me as if I had just lived it. I generally shake these kind of rare dreams off and move on.  Yet, something about it sorta triggered something in my brain. Like there was something familiar about it that I needed to really understand. 

What was it?

Boom. 

Somewhere between stumbling to wake up my children and shuffling downstairs to make my coffee, it hit me.

A dear friend from Canada is such an amazing prayer warrior for me. Always asking, every week, how she can pray for me. Last night, just before bedtime, I asked her to pray that I would have fresh understanding and revelation of what it is that God has been trying to impress on me.

It might sound crazy, but I sometimes get in this place that feels like when trying to find the right word. You know it's there, on the tip of your tongue, but you just can't think of it. Lately, I've been feeling right on the edge of some new understanding or some new revelation. 

There it was. I believe that is what the dream was.

In the dream, I was being held hostage. Bound up and kept from all my loved ones and from my life. Tied up and hidden away. The terror was real, y'all. As if it was really happening. As if I really was the victim of kidnapping. And in the dream, the captors had left me to my prison. For a very brief time period, they were gone. So, I called on people I know to help me. I tried desperately to find freedom and escape. I managed to get away, but I knew "they" would be in close pursuit, as soon as they realized I was missing.

So I was working a phone. Calling person after person to please help. I was running around town, frantically trying to convince someone to help me get far, far away. I knew I had to start all over. With some new identity, as if I was entering the witness protection program. Because the threat was that real. 

Call after call ended with either voice mail or the phone being hung up on me. One friend offered to pay for a plane ticket but would do no more. We met up and she quickly handed me the money but refused to drive me to the airport or be seen with me at all. I nodded in agreement with her refusal. Because I knew she was right. The threat was too real. I couldn't let her become a victim, too. 

That's when I woke up. In a panic. Breathing heavy and quickly. Looking around my bedroom to ground myself in where I really was and what was real.

But I can't shake it. I can't shake the dream because it has something big to tell me. And I think it applies to you, too.

We are, in fact, being held hostage. And we should be terrified instead of non-chalant about it. We should hate it and feel scared instead of being okay with it. Instead of being lulled into an acceptance of our circumstance, as if no other way exists.


Because the truth is that we are being held hostage. By our task lists. By our schedules. By our busy lives. By our constant seeking for man's approval. By social media. By television and entertainment. By Netflix marathons. 

All of it. All these things are holding us hostage. They are tying us in knots and consuming our already busy day. And not leaving us feeling fulfilled. In fact, leaving us feeling flat at best. Or depleted at worst.

I'm not saying that television or Netflix or social media or a busy day is evil. But I am saying that when it consumes the majority of our time and we feel frantic and worn most of the time, then we need to face the issue.

If we want to love the Lord and serve him well and fear him correctly, then we must wake up to our hostage situation. We have to feel the fear of being tied up by all these things. We have to recognize that they do, in fact, take us captive. They cause us to be kept from freedom. 

May we see that. May we see that we are, in fact, hostages to the pitfalls of our modern society. And may it cause us to wake up in a sweat and want to escape it.

What needs to change? What do we need to see, not as a fact of life and "it's just how it is"--but as a thing that has taken over and is now holding us hostage. I read a Huffington Post article the other day entitled Busy is a Sickness. I felt as though it was describing me: "I wear busyness like a badge of honor. Only there's no honor to be had."

The article cited scientific research that supports how our culture of busy is literally making us sick.

So what if we really treated "busy" like a sickness? What if we really woke up to all the things that are holding us hostage? The things we don't have to allow.

It's so counter intuitive and feels so revolutionary that I'm just not too sure about it. I don't know how to swim upstream. Oh, yes, I've said several times over the years that I needed to learn to slow it down and take a rest and learn to say no.

But it's obviously not been enough. I've allowed myself to become a hostage, as surely as my dream last night revealed. And if I'm going to be serious about freedom, then I have to do something different. 

I think we can find escape when we call on God and let him know that we see how much of our lives are being taken captive by these temporary and fleeting things of lesser importance. Like an actual hostage, we find escape by running from them. Fleeing from them, far and quickly. Running into God's arms. Running into God's arms. Pursuing him and asking him how to guard our calendars. How to guard our time. How to guard our hearts.

1. Audit my time. I don't mean I will literally create charts and fill them in, although it wouldn't be a bad idea. But I want to take a week and really pay attention to how much time I spend on things that are not necessary. How much time do I waste on social media, for example? How much time do I allow for "fluff" or unimportant activities that do not build me up, fulfill me, or cause me to connect to the loved ones in my life? This could be painful. 

Yet the first step is admitting you have a problem.

2. Ask God what I am saying yes to that I need to say no, and vice versa.  Only if you really want the answer...because already today in my prayer journal, I was able to quickly write a list of things that I am saying "no" to that needs to be a yes. And in order to find the things that I say "yes" to that need to be a no, I think #1 will help.

3. Ask God to help me hate the things that hold me hostage instead of accept them. The struggle was real this morning at dark-thirty when I woke up in great fear. I am asking God to help me feel that way about the things that are holding me back. To really hate the way they consume my time and tie me up. I NEED to hate them enough to want to be freed from them. I NEED to remember that picture in my mind and the feelings I had about being held captive, against my will. Of being held back from greater things. From freedom. From the ability to enjoy my day and find moments of soul rest within my day.

4. Run to him and his word.  I want to wake up every day and remember the privilege of being able to read the Bible and pray to God and ground myself in those eternal things that alter the course of every day. I want to be sure to not neglect these daily practices and to not approach them as one more task. For they are the life. They are the way to keep him first and let all other things be added.

5. Replace the word "busy" in my vocabulary with the word "full." This is what the author of the Huffington Post article suggested doing. To learn to reframe the things in our life and consider the fullness of life instead of just the busy. To look at things from another perspective. How full our lives are that we have a job, that we have children, that we have opportunities to be involved in things. And if there is anything you are busy doing that does not make you feel "full"--then maybe it needs to go.

I think I've probably blogged on this topic about 312 times over the years. But it's super important. It's like I tell my husband...if I ask the same question more than once, it's because I need to hear the answer again.

We need to hear this answer again. We need to have our eyes open to the way that our very lives are being held hostage with our own permission by a busy calendar and distractions that suck our time and the things we let get in the way that really aren't that important. There are indeed busy seasons of life where not much can change. 

But more often than not, we are just saying yes to too many things or to the wrong things. And we ignore how they are literally holding us hostage and consuming our lives unnecessarily. We ignore how time on social media keeps us from a good book that might inspire us. Or how our need to say yes to volunteer work might leave us feeling grouchy with our kids. Or how our task list is something that guides our day instead of God's word.

What if we really could see busy as a sickness? What if we treated it as such? And we threw ourselves into a cure? What if we made it cool to rest, relax, linger over dinner tables with our children, read aloud with our family, sit and chat with friends, and refuse to be sucked in to every opportunity there was?

I think this is a key to my word for this year. 

Freedom. 

I think when I asked for eyes to see fresh revelation and insight, I got it clearly and loudly. 

Lord, set me free from these captors who tie up my time and attention and keep me from being free to enjoy the more important things.

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