The Definition of Insanity

The assignment was to reflect on what I had heard God saying to me in the past year as I practiced lectio divina, or spiritual reading, throughout the year. I must confess that 2011 was NOT a meditative year, and so 2012 must be.

That is what I heard God saying to me.

As I flew by God, especially in the last few months of the year doing way more than was reasonable to do, struggling with whether I had REALLY heard God call me to do all I was doing, the term “fallow” kept going through my mind. “Lie fallow,” said the Voice. Like a field that is in danger of being depleted of nutrients through mono-crop farming practices, I was nearly depleted from doing some things over and over that were no longer working for me. The definition of insanity: do the same thing over and over but expect a different result to happen. 2011 was insane.

God said to me: “Rest.” Say no to things for a while that are beyond my paid work responsibilities. Assess what was life-giving and what was life-draining in 2011.  Figure out how to weight activities more heavily on the life-giving side of the scale. Also:

  • Stop the insanity; the same habits will not bring about the changes I am looking for!
  • Start playing more. Actually, figure out what “play” means to me. I struggle to answer that question.
  • Return to some creative pursuits that went by the wayside.
  • Start feeding my soul and my body in healthier ways, as the health of one definitely impacts the health of the other.
  • Let go; stop trying to “fix” everything and everybody. In fact, realize I can’t even “fix” myself! Have more times of solitude and quiet.
  • Buy less; psychic potholes are not filled in with comfort food or trinkets.
  • Slow down; be more aware of my surroundings, including the people inhabiting those surroundings with me.

I am trusting that as I obey God, and at times, it will be raw obedience that keeps me from using activities, food, and stuff to tamp down the demons that can haunt the back closets of my mind, I will hear God say other things.

But for now, it is deep into winter and my field is going to lie fallow for a while, to rest. I trust that a spring will come again someday and I will get to see the thin green shoots of new seeds springing up from the dark earth. I do believe in the phoenix.  His name is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Join the Conversation

Can you relate to Valerie’s experience of 2011? What was the year like for you as you reflect?

Which of Valerie’s points do you resonate with the most? Why?

Valerie Hess:
Valerie-Hess-low-resValerie Hess is an author, instructor in the Spring Arbor University’s Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Leadership (MSFL) program, retreat speaker, musician, mother and pastor’s wife. She does a weekly blog at and has written numerous articles, mostly on the themes of spiritual formation through the spiritual disciplines and church music. She has written three books: Habits of a Child’s Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines (co-authored with Dr. Marti Watson Garlett), Spiritual Disciplines Devotional: A Year of Readings and The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Formation" (co-authored with Lane M. Arnold). Her husband is an Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, CO. She has two daughters.
    • Wendy Redal

      How wonderful to discover this blog! Your post, Valerie, could have been written verbatim by me, because it reflects my own awareness and resolutions for the year ahead that mirror yours. Many people dismiss or poo-poo the notion of resolutions, but I find that the post-holiday time in the middle of winter is ideal for stock-taking. And if we do not engage in it, we risk simply proceeding with the same methods for insane living that have been keeping us mired or so distracted that we cannot grow inwardly, or grow nearer to God, or remain healthy (those are in many ways the same thing!).

      I currently have several weekends ahead on my calendar that have NOTHING written down. It’s an odd scenario! It’s not that I don’t wish to do anything – and I likely will, whether it’s skiing, or meeting friends, or whatever might arise – but to leave them open for now, to allow for that “fallowness,” not to overfill or prematurely plant the field of my life… I sense that there will be great, restorative liberation in that. Thanks for sharing your very relevant thoughts!

    • I like the word fallow! I feel like there are areas of your life that can, or need to lie fallow, while other areas are crop, crop, cropping away! I think Moses was lying fallow for 40 years before his encounter with the flaming bush. From an outward perspective, he was lying dormant. But inwardly, God was producing a crop that turned into one heckuva harvest!