Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

To Live Life Whelmed

To live fully, to love wastefully, and to have the courage to be what you are called to be… this is what it means to live life whelmed.

As I was putting together my calendar for the next two months, I remembered something a fellow ministerial intern said to me in an email not long ago… that they were so happy that, on their internship, they were finding a lot of time for personal reflection and time to just relax.

Now, I have never had a problem finding time for personal reflection, such is what my writing is for. But if there is a word that I will not be using in the future to describe my internship at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, it will not be “relaxing”. Wonderful, hopeful, challenging, uplifting, inspiring, provoking, all of those and more apply… but not “relaxing”. This is a good thing.

I realize that I will never be one looking for a restful life. Yesterday, I was annoyed with myself. You see, Monday is my “Sabbath”, a day when I am supposed to rest from my ministerial work, read a fiction novel, watch some television, and generally recuperate from the week. My wife works Mondays, so I have the apartment to myself.

What did I do? I cleaned out the car, cleaned the apartment, returned some cable boxes, answered emails, worked on an RE curriculum, planned my trip to GA, cleaned out a storage closet, and did my laundry. Not a very relaxing day…

As I was looking at my calendar, plugging in all the upcoming events and meetings over the next month, I began to think that I was over-whelmed… that I was taking on too much. This is not an uncommon thought on those days that I sit down to consciously look at my calendar.

And yet, my March and April schedule is not that different than my January and February schedule. I did not feel overwhelmed by January and February… I felt full. I felt like I was living life at or near my capacity to live life. I was whelmed, not overwhelmed.

What a joy it is to be whelmed! To have the ability to find that place where you are full, and to be filled with the work you want to do, the classes you want to take or to teach, to meet with people you want to meet. What a blessing!

My answer for years, when someone asked how I am, was “busy”. But busy implies a negative connotation. Perhaps when I did not love what I was doing as much as I do now, then “busy” applied… but I need a new word. “Wonderfully busy” tends to confuse people in this modern, fast-paced American world.

So, I am whelmed. I hope to live the rest of my life whelmed. And yes, I know that the modern dictionaries have given this word a negative connotation… but look at the middle English… to be covered, to be full.

Bishop John Spong once said this about God. “God is the source of life who is worshipped when we live fully. God is the source of love who is worshipped when we love wastefully. God is the ground of being who is worshipped when we have the courage to be.”

To live fully, to love wastefully, and to have the courage to be what you are called to be… this is what it means to live life whelmed.

Yours in Faith,


2 Thoughts on “To Live Life Whelmed

  1. Great post! I’ve been feeling whelmed too, so it resonated. This reminds me of an article I read a while ago that noted there is such a thing as “good stress.” As opposed to damaging and excessive stress that makes people feel drained, “good stress” is the feeling of being healthily challenged and useful.

  2. Pingback: Follow the Call

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