Words of Warriors Finding Balance During the School Year
By Grace Schonfeld
Planning, planning, planning. Procrastinating on the "doing" until I have an ideal vision of my day or week in my head--ultimately disappointed because life is never perfect. It has taken me several years to accept the unexpected interruptions without being annoyed by them inhibiting my priorities. I have learned that God works through the unexpected.
My planning is rooted in my desire to have a balanced life, yet it is often hard for me to accept that my idea of balance is drastically different from God’s. I equate balance with maximum efficiency, i.e. taking a break only when I need to, socializing when it is scheduled, or (as I would joke about with friends) during planned “spontaneous” social time. Is my introverted side showing?
Did my idea of balance, properly called efficiency, make me happy? No, because I still longed for the "carefree" life I saw in those around me. This year at Westmont, I am taking advantage of opportunities to balance my life according to God’s priorities:
Capax Dei groups. I was part of two student-led bible study groups last year. I love student-led groups in general--seeing my peers vocalize their faith and learning from their wisdom is incredible. Yet, I found it fairly easy to skip when I was stressed or busy. This year a Capax Dei group fit into my schedule and I, ironically, spontaneously signed up for one inspired by my friend who did the same (no planning involved!). In joining a Capax Dei group I feel greater responsibility to attend every week. When I am anxious about school deadlines, my soul needs to step back from academic pressures and rest in God, yet my instinct is to lean into the worldly pressures and ignore God in that moment. These weekly meetings will discipline me to recenter my priorities around God’s will.
Urban Initiative. Last year, I was reluctant to spent my free time doing a service activity causing me to step outside my comfort zone. The group I participated in was Bread of Life on Thursday nights. They go to Alameda park and serve food to the homeless alongside a church and have conversations with the people who attend. As uncomfortable as it was for me to converse with people much different in age and life experience, it was wonderful to stop, listen, and engage with others’ stories. This year will be my first time working with T.C.A.M.P. tutoring young children at Franklin elementary school. In this experience I am hoping to make new friends with Westmont students and also show Jesus’ love to children. This experience will focus my attention towards others not only in that time, but throughout my life. I hope God will create in me a heart of service not focusing on my own achievements but remembering others are more important than myself.
Daily devotional. Last year, I began a daily routine: whole-heartedly, or even half-heartedly, I rest in God’s love and goodness, telling Him all that is on my mind, asking Him to guide my prayers, conversations, and every minute of my life. Alongside chapel and Capax Dei groups, my own time with Jesus is a highlight of my day--sometimes even the favorite part of my day! On very difficult days I feel overwhelming peace and comfort. This intimate time with the Lord allows me to forget the pressures that I put on myself because my identity as a child of God is restored to the forefront of my mind.
True spontaneity. In trying to live less confined to a schedule, set of rules, or pressures, I am saying “yes” to more new things. Events as simple as going to Paseo Nuevo randomly to have dinner and window shop, or seeking after conversations instead of studying a maximum amount of time, have already enriched my life these first weeks of school. In one sense, I am still scheduling my day by getting my priorities out of the way in the morning so random, fun events can happen after class. Yet, in a bigger way, I am surrendering my schedule to God and challenging myself to step outside my comfort zone.
Overall, what I have learned is that for me, staying in my comfort zone leads to an unbalanced life because I am taking control. Taking leaps out of my comfort zone where I feel God guiding me creates some amount of chaos in life, and that scares me. Fear is not from God but from worldly pressures. Attending a rigorous academic institution requires work and study to be engaged in for several hours a day, but I am giving up all hours of my day to God. To discern His plan, I spend more time in prayer and devotion resting in Him individually and in community. Balance in my life this year is waking up every day asking God, “Lord, align my priorities towards your will. Rid me of fear; give me confidence in your purpose as your beloved child.”