On Sunday, I shared this photo on my instagram. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but the topic is so important that I wanted to share it here, for those who may not have seen it, and elaborate on it just a bit.
| Calm before the storm. |
This morning I realized once again how badly I need grace. It’s easy to keep grinding and thinking that you’ll out-work your weaknesses and your mistakes. The hard part is hitting the brakes and saying “help.” Being rather than doing, resting in the abundant assurance of His work rather than your own efforts, letting yourself be renewed rather than starting a new project to fill in the gaps left by the last. That kind of living-in-grace is hard if you train yourself to avoid it…so here’s to the start of un-training that, of being refreshed, of honoring the Sabbath, of admitting weakness, and of dancing in that wild river of mercy. (That may be a little much for a weekend morning, but I’d wager that I’m not the only one who could use a little more practice with grace. So if you’re in the same boat…well, welcome aboard. I happen to know that our Captain is the best in the business.)
I posted this after finishing my Bible study time on Sunday morning, after a week that was filled with decisions related to career matters, some frustrating health issues (my ankle getting janked up again, for example), and generally more chaotic than usual. My brother was home on leave, which was fantastic and meant parties and bbqs and staying up late watching How I Met Your Mother reruns and eating popcorn drenched in Cholula. I loved all of it
especially the Cholula-soaked popcorn but it still threw me off. I’m the kind of broad whose reaction to change or stress or life getting messy is to buckle down and bust my ass until I can get that routine back and have everything “just right.” (If you look up “neurotic” in the encyclopedia, you’ll see my mug shot.) And so somewhere in that tension of simultaneously trying to enjoy the moment and make weighty decisions and be as productive as possible, I ended up in a hot mess of not-enough-sleep, lackluster/skipped workouts, crappy meals, a messy desk, countless to-do lists, unwashed hair, a tangled up heart, and a very short fuse.
Sunday morning I rolled out of bed after a late shift at work and about 5 hours of sleep, and told myself to get. it. together. I had planned to go on a quick run in the morning, but both my body and mind were so weary that trudging along for 2 miles was unfathomable. It was 6 am and I was sprawled on the floor, eyes closed, trying to figure out how in the hell I would ever get everything done before work in a few hours. Funny things happen when you’re in a state of exhaustion and desperation. You start asking things like why? and what if? And so I asked questions.
Questions like “What if I rest instead of run?”
Questions like “What if I don’t make another to-do list?”
Questions like “Why am I doing this?” and “What if I can’t keep this up?” and “What if I can’t get it all done?”
And then the biggest question of all…“What if instead of more goals, I need more grace?”
As I laid there on the floor and really, truly thought about it. What would happen if I gave myself some grace? What if I admitted I couldn’t do everything I wanted to? Was the solution to keep going, keep doing more, keep pushing harder? The problem is, if you keep pushing long enough, it usually doesn’t lead you to perfection…it just turns into punishment. And in that moment, it became very clear – grinding wasn’t working. I could continue to push myself, but it would get me nowhere.
So I made a crazy decision:
Today, I wouldn’t run.
Today, I would take a step back from all the projects and works in progress.
Today, I would rest.
And today, it would be ok.
Maybe it’s coincidence that this happened on a Sunday, the day most people consider their Sabbath. Maybe, but maybe not. After working almost every Sunday since starting at my current job, I had gotten out of the habit of having a day of rest. Not rest/recovery days from working out – that’s one area of rest where I’ve gotten consistent – but rest from the daily grind. And I could feel the weariness down to my very soul. So when I decided to give myself grace, to not go run, to not scramble all over my to-do’s, I headed out the the backyard with my Bible and my devotional book (Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest – I highly recommend it!) and a steaming cup of coffee. I read and I rested and I was refreshed. I etched a new, much-abbreviated to-do list onto the chalkboard table. I drank my coffee, I watched the morning, and I sat with my thoughts instead of running from them.
I let myself have a little grace.
And it was the best decision I made all week.
Life gets ugly sometimes. I get ugly sometimes. All the “grinding” in the world will not make me immune to those facts, as much as I wish it could. Exhaustion is going to hit. Chaos is going to ensue. Storms will roll in. Plans will change, projects will fail, and people will disappoint. We can put on blinders and force ourselves to keep marching forward and set new goals and convince ourselves that nothing will be out of our control if we work hard enough. We can do that, but I’m convinced it will slowly kill us. We can also choose to admit that we need help. (Don’t they say that’s the hardest part?) We can admit that we are human, that we are finite, that we can’t go it alone.
We can take a break from the marching and sit by the river that flows from heaven to earth. We can let that stream of mercy wash over us and rinse the fear and the worry right out and fill those spaces with faith and assurance and hope. We can listen to the sound of the rushing water, we can lie in the green pastures, and we can feel our souls be restored before we head back into the valleys and the busyness and the battles and the to-do lists. We can choose to keep grinding, but we can also choose grace.
It’s not laziness, it’s embracing our need for Living Water.
It’s not giving up, it’s gearing up to face life’s giants.
It’s not taking the easy way out, it’s taking the most valuable gift ever offered.
Come join Him at the river, won’t you?