You Have Permission to COLLECT STRENGTH

An Interview with Author Janell Rardon

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by Kelinda Crawford

Q: In your book, Overcoming Hurtful Words, you refer to rest as collecting strength. How are these two concepts interrelated?

A: An aha moment came to me as I was studying and preparing for an upcoming online course I was developing. As I read and then began researching Matthew 11:28-30, I discovered a deeper meaning to the verb “rest.” In the Greek, anapauo is defined, “To cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect strength.” I distinctly remember gasping as I read the latter part of that definition. In order to recover or collect strength. Prior to reading this, I did equate rest with getting a massage or going on vacation, but in its truest sense, it simply invites us “to collect strength.” This looks different for everyone, doesn’t it? And, it doesn’t typically cost any money. I collect strength by riding my bike, beach combing for moon shells, going to a yoga class, writing in my journal or setting a beautiful table and making a great meal. Most importantly, this is a daily practice. I concluded that a heart at rest is a heart at its best. Ready to face the day with collected strength, not depletion and strain.

Q: You say we must give ourselves permission to collect strength (i.e., to rest): Why do you feel giving ourselves permission is important?

A: I’ve listened to countless women, in my private practice, in my friendships, and in conference settings, speak from a place of total emotional exhaustion. Phrases like, “I am done,” and “I can’t take anymore,” and “Why can’t I handle it all?” repeatedly being voiced. In a culture that beats to the drum of “more, more, more,” rest is often interpreted as selfish or unnecessary. Take vitamins. Work out. Get organized. “Do” this and that. When we give ourselves permission to collect strength, we move through life from a healthy place and at a healthy pace. Fractured and frazzled becomes calm and collected. Hurry and scurry becomes well-balanced and centered.

Q: You quote Anne Lindberg: “If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.” How do we lose touch with ourselves?

When we give ourselves permission to collect strength, we move through life from a healthy place and at a healthy pace.

A: Anne Lindbergh is one my spiritual giants. I love to stand on her shoulders and share her relevant thoughts. She adds to this conversation, “Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others.” The key here being, “connected.” With the technical advancements of our age comes the constant barrage and unceasing noise of 24/7 news feeds, the competitiveness of our social media society and the dangerous digital distraction that never leaves us alone. Suddenly and subtly, everybody’s business is our business. Somewhere in the midst of all of this noise, the volume of our own voice lessens and lessens, to the point that we get lost. It all becomes too much. Yet, this isn’t going away. We have to learn to navigate the noise. I do this by practicing rest, i.e., collecting strength. Hopping on my bike, riding to a quiet bench by the water. Turning off the television, reading a psalm. Digging in the earth, planting beautiful flowers. In these moments, I connect with God, myself and then, am refreshed and better able to love others.

Q: Your book stresses the importance of “alone time”—solitude in which we can address the issues of self-care and self-preservation. You say that without those times, you are really no good to anyone. Would you explain what you mean?

A: Through this arduous healing journey, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. I can’t do it all, nor have I been called to do it all. I’ve also discovered I am highly allergic to “shoulding” and “shaming” language. We are really good at shoulding all over one another. A kissing cousin to judgment, shoulding is a heavy burden on its recipient. You should learn to say no. You should be at this and that. You should call me more often. You should get organized. Jesus made it his highest priority to spend time with his father. With throngs of people constantly seeking his help, he slipped away to seek solitude. He modeled “self-care,” and “self-preservation,” for us. He knew he had to connect to the most important relationship in his life, collect strength by being in a quiet place, and attune himself to his father’s business. If our emotional and spiritual tanks are empty, how can we fill others? Without a doubt, I can tell when I have neglected this practice. My words are sharper. I have a shorter fuse. My relationships suffer. I grumble and complain. And grace is replaced with shame and should. Often, I get physically sick.

Q: How can we find solitude in our busy agendas?

A: Oh, the badge of busy. We wear it loud and proud. Mine had lights and bells and whistles. Nothing gave me more self-satisfaction than wearing that accolade. Until, I fell apart.

Literally came apart at the emotional seams. If I could, I’d wave my magic wand over each and every person in the world and instantly allow them to experience the profound treasures of practicing silence and solitude, but I can’t. It requires intentionality and discipline. Busyness isn’t going away, but it can be managed. I don’t promise easy, but I do promise empowering. One of the simplest ways to find solitude is to make room for it to happen. When I first began my own journey into this practice, I sat in my bedroom closet. In the dark. I was so worn out that I had no words left, only, “Help me, God.” I call this my “three-word whisper prayer.” By making room, we invite God into a quiet place—our hearts—and begin connecting. One minute will turn into two and before you know it, your soul’s craving for peace and rest is satisfied. Silence is no longer a stranger but your very best friend. Someone you can’t live without.

Q: You hit upon a very important topic, self-love, and you ask the question, “Isn’t this selfish?” You share, “We put everyone else first. It is expected of us. At least that is what we expect of ourselves.” Tell us why you feel loving ourselves is so critical.

A: My personality-type lends itself to be “the helper, the fixer, and the doer,” for sure, and I am an adult child of an alcoholic, so the propensity towards co-dependency and hyper-responsibility is a learned trait, but I continue to hear women express their dire need for rest and underneath that lies their deep cry for contentment. Instead of putting the oxygen mask on first, because it feels so selfish to do so (at least to me), we give and give until there is nothing left to give. As I’ve wrestled with this notion of “self-love,” I sensed that somewhere, somehow, the words of Jesus in Mark 12:28-32 have been sorely misconstrued. Agape love, as Jesus taught, means, “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.” I always come away from this teaching with one thought, “How can I love others well if I don’t love myself well?” There is a tension here and this is a tough subject. Just saying the words, “self-love,” or “self-care,” or “self-preservation,” makes me feel very selfish, but somewhere on my faith journey, I picked up faulty thinking on this. When we understand the true meaning of being a “selfish” person, i.e., egocentric, self-centered, self-absorbed, self-obsessed,” we come to terms that this is very different than the love Jesus spoke of in this powerful passage. He bids us to “come away and rest,” (Matthew 11:28-30) and invites us to intimacy with him (Genesis 3:8).

Q: You say that “shedding comes before collecting.” Can you give us a few examples of what we can shed from our lives that will enable us to collect more strength and overcome pain?

A: Once again, I gleaned from the wise teachings of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In her classic, Gifts from the Sea, she writes of how beach living invites “the art of shedding.” Living near the Atlantic, my husband and I visit the Outer Banks of North Carolina on a regular basis. First thing we do? Walk to the beach and shed our shoes. Toes in the sand. Our blood pressure drops immediately. So, I felt inclined to expand on her thoughts and considered five simple ways to implement this fine art on an emotional and spiritual level:

1. Shed vanity. Let go of caring so much about achievement, accolades, appearance, status, etc.

2. Shed hypocrisy. No more facades. Strengthen your sense of self by practicing solitude and silence. Engage in that powerful three-fold cord of connection: connect to God, to self and then, to others.

3. Shed anxiety. This is a tough one. Remember that everybody’s business in not our business. Turn off all those digital devices. Practice joy and build a little happiness into your daily routine.

4. Shed complication. From personal experience, I promise that as you implement everything we’ve lightly touched on in this conversation, life will get simpler.

5. Shed the trifles and trap-pings of modern life. It sounds cliche, but “the little things are really the big things.” I turn to Ecclesiastes 4:6 for help in this shedding, “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” For a woman who birthed twins, this takes on tremendous meaning. Just because we can carry two handfuls of life doesn’t mean it is best. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Janell Rardon is a national and international speaker, author, and relationship expert. A board-certified Advanced Christian Life Coach (AACC), she is in private practice in Suffolk, VA.