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Monday Over Coffee: Restless Soul Syndrome

Need a Word of Encouragement?


Restless Soul Syndrome

When I was a kid, I recall my dad had a condition called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). I think he considered it more an irritant than a medical problem, but I knew it kept him up at night with regularity. Restless Leg Syndrome typically arises in the evening when a person is sitting quietly, lying down at rest, or trying to sleep. It’s a jittery, twitchy, creepy-crawly feeling within your legs that causes an urge to move them around. Stretching and twisting your muscles eases the unpleasant feeling, but only sort of, and only very temporarily. 
 
It’s probably because my dad casually and colloquially called his own RLS ‘the crazy leg’ that I didn’t take it quite as seriously as I might have, until as an adult, I started experiencing the condition myself. It can be pretty bothersome at times. I bring this up not merely to share with you a minor medical malady, but to draw a metaphorical line between my often jittery, twitchy legs and my, and perhaps your own, inability to sit still and remain spiritually at rest sometimes with all that is going on.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve resolved to find a quiet place and just sit still — mind open, heart open — to listen, hoping to connect more closely with God before facing the day. Instead, what I’ve recognized about myself more than ever is even when I’m doing my best to concentrate on being still and quiet in the present moment, I seem to slide very easily into a posture of leaning forward, not physically, but mentally into the future — thinking ahead, trying to plan what’s next, worried about all that’s happening in the world, trying to anticipate or get a jump on everything in violation of the whole purpose of this would-be sacred enterprise. There’s also something bigger going on — a creeping impatience within the stillness, an inability to sit quietly due to a twitchiness, a jitteriness not unlike a psychological version of the crazy leg. Let’s call it restless soul syndrome.

As believers, especially given all going on around us, it really is crazy we can’t sit still for more than just a few moments peacefully at rest in the presence of God without thinking of or wanting to do something else. The chaos and velocity of the world makes this more important than ever for our mental and spiritual well-being. The fact that we find this so difficult to do is ample evidence it is vitally needed. Is it simply that our minds are without the necessary will to do this? It just may be. But there’s also this: Between the moments my soul is wandering and my mind is worrying, when my heart becomes settled even briefly, I feel not a condemnation from God for my faint-heartedness, but an encouraging mercy urging me deeper into the practice. I feel not a punitive spirit glaring down at me for my weakness, but a gentle internal prompting to endeavor to begin again.

I believe God summons us toward prayer, toward meditation, toward contemplation, toward intimacy, but it’s just as important to know God is also patiently supportive, tenderly urging us into each present moment, meeting our sporadic will with an ever-present grace, settling us down as we twitch, as we jitter about, and even as we fail in the effort. 

Maybe it will require some stretching and twisting to find the right posture, one that’s not leaning forward too much, not tipping ahead into the anxious future so much, but with God’s loving-kindness and ongoing encouragement, try to keep finding those quiet spots and moments for your restless soul.

God — Christ said tomorrow will worry about itself. The same can be said for today. The boxes on the to-do list will be checked off in time. The day will bustle along. But for now, God, for just a moment, calm my mind and still my restless soul.
 
- Greg Funderburk

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