Here's the latest installment in our series of online devotionals, written by a woman in our church for the women in our church. We're pleased to offer this as a substitute for an in-person Immeasurably More Bible Study this semester.
BY CARRIE MCKEAN
I sat in the Discipleship Training Cohort just two weeks ago fighting back tears. Agitated and restless, I tried to listen as Dillon talked about margin and space and spiritual rhythms that would help me flourish. Nothing he said seemed untrue; in fact his words stirred up a longing in my heart for something more... something different than what I had. But they also stirred up frustration as I contemplated how impossible it all seemed.
I tend to doodle when I think, and suddenly I realized I had subconsciously sketched out an hour-by-hour schedule of my day. From 5:00 am to 8:00 pm my weekdays were booked. My quiet time had been reduced to a 15 minute audio devotional that I listen to while getting ready for the day between 5:30 and 5:45. (It's excellent, but am I actually letting the truth sink into my bones if I sometimes can't hear parts of it over the hair dryer?) If the kids managed to meet their morning schedule and be ready for the bus with a few minutes to spare, we'd sit down on the couch as a family and read a devotional from Bob Goff's fabulous book, Love Does for Kids. (I always feel like I should probably Instagram the moment on the days it happens naturally. But then my pride gets held in check by the more common reality: many days we manage this family devotional time only because my increasingly loud voice hurried and rushed my kids to the finish line, and I'm left wondering if the good news they heard in the book outweighed the bad attitude their mom displayed as she forced them to get ready to listen.)
On a bright note, there was my one-hour each day carved out for writing -- my one whole little personal hour of the day. Followed by a full day at the office. (It's a church office, mind you, but still somehow manages to be hectic and full of overly-peoply-people, starting of course with me.) I leave the church office and have about 15 minutes of quiet in the car while I wait for the girls' bus, and then it's home to homework, dinner, choir, basketball, etc. etc. etc. So much life in the etc. By the time they go to bed, I'm spent.
My frustration with this pace isn't about the over-glorification of busy-ness. (I don't actually value it even if my calendar says otherwise.) BUT HOW DO WE DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT!!!! I wanted to scream out the question in class. I look around and I know we all know it is true. Life is too much. It's too loud. Too fast. Too busy. Too everything. We're rats on a wheel who call spinning living. Inside I feel caged and trapped. And somehow out of the depths of this, Jesus' words from Matthew 11 bubble up:
Are you tired? Worn out?
(Yes and yes.)
Burned out on religion?
(I've literally turned it into my job. Sigh.)
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
(I want to! But how do I find you in the middle of all this?! **gesturing wildly at dinner plans and educational gaps and sibling spats and vet appointments and writing projects and work responsibilities and dang-I-bet-the-laundry-in-the-washer-has-turned-sour-already**)
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
(I am trying to find you! Trying to see you! HELLLLLLOOOOOOO. Is there some magic code I'm missing?! When can I squeeze "walking with you" into my schedule today...)
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
(I've never been a good dancer... but I'd love to learn. Can you teach me how to not lay those things on myself? That seems to be the hardest part for me.)
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
(Freely and lightly. Maybe this could almost be my daily breath prayer. (Inhale) Jesus teach me to (exhale) live freely and lightly.)
Two weeks later, snow blankets the ground. I wake up early, at the time my alarm usually goes off, and I think about all the things I need to do to start the day. Time to hop back on the wheel of life. And then I feel how cold the room is and I remember... I'm living through another historical event. There's still no electricity.
Wait for the dawn.
The thought settles over my spirit like the warm blanket I burrow myself back under. The truth is, I have no choice but to wait. I can't make coffee. There is nothing to do in this darkened house. The girls are still sleeping. Jacob will start the fire soon and maybe turn on the generator so we can make some coffee. But we have no internet, no cell service, no power and I can't do much of anything else. The planet will keep spinning. I can rest.
I close my eyes and fall back asleep, turning the phrase over and over in my mind as I drift off. Wait for the dawn. Wait for the dawn.
We played lots of Uno under blankets. I may or may not have an opponent who likes to stack the deck. Guess who got all the Draw 4s?
Now we have electricity (and cell and internet service), but I will confess that I did not hate my 50 hours without power, which I know is at least partially thanks to that intermittent generator and fireplace that kept us from really freezing. But I also know it's because it put me back in my proper place and left me with that phrase that remains percolating in my heart... wait for the dawn. God brings light, not me. God keeps the planet spinning, not me. God can solve these problems, not me. I do not need to go out ahead of His plans and purposes; I can rest.
In her book (a book, by the way, that Steve has encouraged our congregation to pick up during this season of Lent) Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, Ruth Haley Barton writes about the spiritual practice of solitude:
"Jesus knows how quickly our passions, even the most noble, can wear us out if we're not careful. I think he also understands that the sources of our exhaustion are many and complex and often we are completely unaware of how they are taking their toll. There are the obvious sources of exhaustion like a heavy workload, many family responsibilities, busy seasons when extra activity crowds in, but there are more subtle sources of inner exhaustion as well. We might be functioning out of an inordinate sense of "ought and should," burdened by unrealistic expectations about what it means to be a good Christian. Since we're not always sure how to live with our humanness, we feel guilty when we are tired, ill or grieving and try to shove it down rather than attend to it. But it takes energy to repress these aspects of our humanness, and eventually the effort itself wears us out."
She has my number. And she continues with a way forward out of this rat-race...
"Celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with the questions, feel my anger, attend to my loneliness. This "being with what is" is not the same thing as problem solving or fixing, because not everything can be fixed or solved. Rather it means allowing God to be with me in that place and waiting for him to do what is needed."
I can't always find moments of solitude, but I can stop running this ridiculous rat-race and wait on him.
Wait for the dawn. Be still. Carrie/Insert-Your-Name-Here, Stop reducing your relationship with your creator to a check box on your to-do list, checked off even if you can't hear Jesus' voice over the hair dryer. This is crazy-making! Instead, relax. Let go. We're only human because God joyfully and purposefully made us that way.
So go ahead and burrow back under the warm blankets of God's presence. When possible, carve out time to be alone... not busy or striving, but just waiting and being. And when you can't be alone, linger with your creator as you watch the sunrise on your drive to drop the kids off at school. Dance with the Spirit and your grandkids to silly TikTok videos. Go on a walk with a friend and give thanks for the community God's given you. Turn on a heater and be astonished at the gift that is electricity; a gift God helped us harness and employ. Delight in the way God crafted your little baby's nose to scrunch when she tries peas for the first time. Break bread - or the $5 pizza you picked up from Little Ceaser's after basketball practice - with Jesus and your family. Notice the reflection of the imago dei in the soft brown eyes of the kid bagging your groceries at the store or in the way your elderly mother's hand's curl around her Bible or in the quick yet kind efficiency of the nurse who gave you a Covid vaccination. Taste and see the ordinary yet extravagant goodness of the Lord in your everyday life. It's enough! It's more than enough! Wait for the dawn. Live freely and lightly and remember it's an invitation to dance rather than an instruction to carry a heavy load.
May we receive it as such.