Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Sometimes you don’t know you’re missing something until you’re mid-leap. Lately, I’ve been leaping a lot: quaking in my boots as I submit guest posts and applications to blogging groups, attending my church’s SHE retreat for the first time, enrolling the boys in a new school, agreeing to be a Bible Study leader for a multi-generational group of women most of whom I had never met before . . . most of life, lately, has been engulfed by new. If I’m being honest? It’s been a little scary.
I feel my life changing, the current shifting. I stand chest deep in these river waters, and my natural inclination has always been to swim. Paddle. Dive in, fight the current, strive. For the past few years, I’ve been dog paddling like crazy just to keep my own head–and my family–above water. My prayers have mostly been what I could manage in between spitting out water and breathing in enough to keep afloat. And I’m tired.
I have asked God a hundred times when would my break come? When would the waves stop pounding, when could I actually stand up and make my way off the shore and into the hills of His promised land? My prayers begged for rest; my heart longed for peace.
With a flurry of emotions on their Mama’s part, Abraham and Samuel started school this fall. For the first time in years, I have time to myself: an actual six hours and 45 minutes per week! For the first time since Abraham was born, There is some give to my schedule, exhale, Selah, breath. But do you think this dog-paddling mama was actually going to give herself a break?
Not exactly. After a half-celebratory, half-mournful first-day-of-school breakfast date with Jack, I ramped up my writing expectations. I planned to have all of my blogs for the week written on Mondays, and to use Wednesdays and Fridays for finishing my book. How many blogs could I do in a week? Certainly, I could do more than I’d been doing. And the book should really be done by Christmas. And–
Oh, yeah. I have basically been in serious pain for the past five years, so I did make an appointment for a doctor finally. After explaining to him that I’ve been getting massages, going to a Chiropractor, and getting acupuncture for a long time with little relief, he prescribed physical therapy. He literally said my pain is from chronic stress. Wow.
And so, for the past three weeks, I’ve been spending the majority of my alone time in physical therapy, getting more massages, and doing my exercises at home to get out of pain and to get back in shape. Did I mention the pain has been so debilitating that I haven’t been able to maintain a consistent workout routine? Yeah.
There hasn’t been a lot of time left for writing. I haven’t been getting ahead at all. And that’s been frustrating. That is, until I went to the first meeting of the Bible Study leaders. The other women prayed over me, and what they said changed my view: that God wasn’t going to sacrifice my well being or the wellbeing of my marriage or my children for the sake of the ministry He’s calling me to.
Stop. Anybody else just have the lights go on? I walked out of that meeting CHANGED. You see, all this time, all these years, I knew God loved me. But somewhere I started to think that I was just some old wine skin he was going to use. I was for His use. I guess I felt like He was this slavemaster who just wanted to press out my talents and energy for His purposes. I didn’t think it really mattered to God if all that was left of me after His purposes was pomace. I think I’d make great fertilizer . . . And maybe I thought being obedient was letting Him, submitting to fodderness. Because isn’t that what I am without Him anyways?
Down deep, even though I love Him, even though I want desperately to serve Him, all of this “use your pain for His gain” has felt like I was being used . . . even if I knew God loved me. I didn’t think it mattered how broken that made me. And even though I know scores of scriptures that argue against that concept, my experiences in real life ministry and relationships have often left me feeling used, and dirty, and very irrelevant. I’m not trying to create a pity party for Taylor here; I’m just admitting that this willing heart has been crushed enough to start believing that that’s all she was made for.
But, after being prayed over that night, I know that His will is not for me to feel used, but cherished. He wants me whole. He cares about my health: spiritually, mentally, and physically. He cares more that I spend time nursing myself back to health and going to physical therapy, than He does about my blog or a book or any other service.
Just this week, I rediscovered Jeremiah 31:
Thus says the Lord:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall take your tambourines,
and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant,
and shall enjoy the fruit . . .
I will satisfy the weary,
and all who are faint I will replenish.
He means to rebuild me. He purposes me for wholeness: healthy, rested, joy-filled. He means for me to once again make merry, to once again dance, to once again work and enjoy the fruits of my labor. He means to make me a new vessel, a new wine skin to hold new wine:
Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved. Matthew 9:17
He means for me to relax into a new way of living. When I trade my old way of desperate dog-paddling in for His new path for me, time unfolds for the life-giving smalls of my life. There’s time for decorating the house with pumpkins and maple leaves, for propping up scare crows and planting mums in the front yard because they make me so happy I giggle. There’s time for me.
When Jack’s mom volunteered to pick the kids up from school (thank you, Oma Janie! Thank you, Oma Janie!), my natural inclination was to use the time to work more. But, now that I am taking up residence in the URG (Unforced Rhythms of Grace), that hunk of a man I get to call my husband and I are sitting in our sweats and watching reruns on HULU, or sneaking out for a quick lunch and a one o’clock movie, giggling and holding hands like a couple of teenagers cutting class on Friday afternoons.
It’s been a long haul. Sitting here writing this I am overcome with gratitude and relief for a God who loves me so well and so completely. He doesn’t purpose us for frantic, friend. He doesn’t plan to run you into the ground and then trade you in for spare parts. He made your needs for small wonders, for date nights and bubble baths, for a coffee date with your best friend, for a good night’s sleep, and wide open spaces. Our needs are not meant to be beaten out of us. He means to fill each and every one.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
I just keep thinking of Crush the turtle in Finding Nemo:
Come into the URG, dude! It’s awesome!
Letting His current carry and restore this heart of mine,