Hop off the Hamster Wheel

Growing up, I had a hamster named Frisky. Frisky got his name from the fact that he jumped on his hamster wheel the moment we placed him in his Habitrail—you know, one of those cages with little tubes and tunnels to scurry through. Once on that wheel, Frisky never got off. Never. Like, not once. Sprinting in circles, going absolutely nowhere. For an entire week straight. And then he died. We think he died of a heart attack.

Sure, hamsters have teeny, tiny brains, and Frisky probably didn’t have any sense to stop. But sometimes I feel like it’s us giant two-legged creatures that need to hop off the wheel.

It begins in high school, right? We take the right classes—the ones everyone says will get us ahead. We pour ourselves into college applications, apply for scholarships and loans. Take and retake the ACT. If we get into college, we do all the activities and strive to get the internships that will pave the way to getting the “right” job. When we get the job, we grind it out to be in the running for the next promotion.

Or we get our first home and immediately start redoing and fixing and decorating every square inch. Or get engaged and begin wedding preparations that same day. Or get a plus on a pregnancy test and head to the store to buy all the baby gear. Or finish our first marathon only to dive into training to work on a faster time for the next one.

Praise Jesus for education and opportunities and homes and weddings and babies and the races we run! And, yes please, let’s do our best and use the gifts He’s given us and make the spaces He provides beautiful and put intentionality into our relationships and do our best wherever we are. 

But let’s also slow down enough to be grateful—to explore what God has for us here. Seek His goodness, and ask what He wants us to learn. Let’s hop off the hamster wheel and breathe it all in, delight in this life God has given us. 

God has plans to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11) that we should keep our hearts and minds open to. But that doesn’t mean running on hamster wheels in a frenzy to try to get there. It means intentionally moving forward to where Jesus is leading us and taking in the view as we go. 

What season are you in?

Are you embracing it? Or hustling to get to whatever is next?

If you’re in a temporary job or living arrangement, you could stop rushing to find something “better” and instead check out some tasty restaurants, peaceful parks, free art exhibits, or concerts. See what you can discover, who you can meet, how much you can save up–and thank God for the experiences. If you’re taking classes, you could soak in as much learning as possible, get to know the stories of your classmates, and praise God for the opportunities. If you’re in treatment, of course you’d like to get better A.S.A.P., but while you’re journeying to healing you could take the very best care of yourself and be grateful for trained healing professionals, roads to recovery, and God’s constant faithfulness.

You get the idea. We don’t have to rush past the here and now. We can be grateful right where we are. Because God has something for you and me–today and every day.

Psalm 23:6 tells us, “Surely your goodness and love shall follow me all the days of my life.” It doesn’t say, “If your ailment goes away,” or “If you get a different job,” or “If this relationship gets better.” It says that surely God’s goodness will follow us all the days of our lives.

Frisky never ran through all the cool tunnels attached to his cage. He never burrowed in the fluffy bedding in his little home. Maybe he snuck a drink of cool water from his bottle when none of us were looking, but there are no eyewitnesses. I don’t want to be like Frisky. You? Let’s not be spinning so fast that we miss the good stuff. Instead, let’s be grateful.

Hopping off the hamster wheel doesn’t mean sitting back and eating bowlfuls of cookie dough in our pajamas while streaming entire seasons on Netflix for weeks on end. Don’t get me wrong, I love cookie dough more than almost anyone, enjoy a great Netflix series, and believe we all need to pause and rest. But Jesus doesn’t encourage us to loaf around aimlessly. Jesus frequently slowed down. With purpose. Often to thank God for His goodness. Jesus thanked God before He fed the crowd of 4,000 men plus women and children in Matthew 15:36. He paused to thank God again before He fed a crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children in John 6:11. Jesus also stopped to give thanks to God before He raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11:41. If Jesus kept pausing in the middle of His work to give God thanks, we should probably follow suit.

It’s summer in Ohio. The sun is shining. My geraniums are blooming bright red by my front door. My kids are home from school, and I am all for getting to spend more time with them. But as I’m experiencing summer, the world whispers in my ear, Get ready for fall, be prepared. Again, there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead–I thrive by being prepared. But I don’t want to adopt a scarcity mentality for summer, to be so preoccupied with what’s next that I don’t savor going barefoot, having picnics with my kids, and taking trips to the pool. 

We can choose to run as frantically as Frisky did, trying to get to the next level, the next month, and the next promotion, or we can keep our eyes wide open in wonder at what God is doing. There’s nothing wrong with moving forward—I highly encourage it, but I also want to fully experience the goodness and love He offers. So, yes, I want to get the groceries to host a cookout, order tickets for an outdoor concert, spend time working on my next writing project, and strategize some things for fall. But I want to keep things in perspective. Because this is the day I’m living. It’s the only one I know for sure I’ll have. And I want to delight in what Jesus has for me. So, I’m going to close my laptop and go sip some lemonade on my porch. 

Join me?

—Written by Laura Smith. Used by permission from the author.