Weary and Heavy Burdened
I don’t know how to let go. Maybe you have that problem too. I certainly don’t think it’s just me. I find myself subconsciously and constantly attempting to be better and to do more. And I don’t know how to release, to relinquish, to slow down, to just be, even when it’s clear that the time is right, or even past due. I just keep hanging on, pushing harder and further. Holding on.
Certainly a part of it, at least for me, is the Enneagram One-ness I carry, always driving toward perfection yet feeling like I’ve never quite reached it—but maybe I could with just a bit more time, opportunity, and, of course, effort. Maybe I just need to put a bit more energy toward my high ideals, knowing that good things come at a cost. Maybe what this project requires to be all that it can (and, quite frankly, should) be is just a little extra attention, another hour (or three) spent on it. Then it’ll be just perfect and I won’t have to make any adjustments, right? Or maybe what I need is to invest just a little more effort into certain faltering relationships and then they’ll come alive again like they were back in the day when we had fewer demands on our time and had more energy to give. Certainly that must be the case, right? I must just not be trying hard enough.
Then, of course, there’s the part of me that doesn’t want to admit that I can’t do everything. After all, teaching two college courses while completing a doctoral degree, raising two (very soon to be three) small and rather demanding children who don’t sleep well, investing in a house church and an intentional community while also directing a missional apprenticeship for college students isn’t too much at once, right? Oh, and don’t forget managing six rental properties. And moving sometime in the near future. And then there’s the grocery shopping. And the cooking and cleaning. And, of course, the mounds of laundry. And ... and … and. But that’s just life, right? And if I just schedule it right and try hard enough, it’ll all come together, right? While somehow still leaving time for the other important things, like quality family time and connection with friends and time with God and rest and relaxation … and … and … and. Right?
As a good Christian (especially as a good Christian woman and a good Christian minister), there should be a way to do it all, right? After all, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” right? Right!!
Of course there is undeniable truth in what Phil. 4:13 is saying. In the strength of Christ, I can face anything and come out victorious. Praise God! But that’s not the same as denying the limitations of my humanity in an attempt to continuously do more and better and to be more and better. When I do that (for me it’s not just on a semi-regular basis but as a typical way of being), I deny God’s rightful place and make myself out to be God. I deny the joyous nature of what and who God created me to be—a limited, frail, imperfect human being—attempting to be something I misguidedly consider better. So I work myself into a frenzy of activity and anxiety, trying to take on the world all at once, pushing harder and harder toward perfection and productivity, because clearly everything depends on me. And I forget.
I forget that, much more than a life of accomplishment and excellence, God has called me into a life of peace and joy and companionship. I forget that things are not all up to me but rather depend greatly on others and God. I forget that life is not just about adding more but is about finding balance and blessing, and that sometimes requires letting go. I forget that in the stillness and in the transitions of release, God often offers me better than the things I’ve had such a hard time relinquishing. I forget—or maybe I never really learned—that my value is not based on anything I can be or do and that, as Sleeping At Last has put it in a song aimed at people who struggle with this very thing, “grace requires nothing of me.”
This is a heavy burden to bear, my friends. And I know I’m not the only one who bears it. Many of us, especially those of us in ministry, have taken up this burden. Yet didn’t Jesus call us to something better?
Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, 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. (Matt. 11:28-30)
That sounds like such good news. Too good, perhaps—impossible to believe and accept and live by. Where would I even start? And who would pick up the slack?
At the same time it can be such devastating, bewildering news. Because if “grace requires nothing of me,” then what in the world am I doing? Who am I? How do I define myself if not by my productivity or my helpfulness or my impressiveness or others’ opinions of me … or … or … or …?
I don’t have all the answers here, that’s for sure. This is more of a confession of my brokenness than it is an exhibition of wisdom. Maybe an invitation too, though. I don’t know where to start, exactly, but I know it has something to do with releasing, letting go, relinquishing—and not just the feverish nature of my schedule but the frenzied nature of my heart.
Yes, letting go of some of the activities and expectations that I so easily allow to weigh me down under a heavy yoke of busyness. But also letting go of my drive toward perfection, my efforts to prove and improve myself. Letting go of my fear that I am nothing without that. Letting go of my need to appear (at least to myself) god-like while dismissing the true God whose graciousness is so unbelievably inviting it feels objectionable. This is the heaviest yoke of all. This is the burden I must relinquish in order to live fully the life of joy God has invited me into.
I don’t know very well how to do it, friends. That much ought to be obvious. But it, unlike some of the other undertakings I’ve chosen, is a pursuit that I know God is calling me into. And I invite you to join me on the imperfect, faltering journey of discovering just how to go about it. Let’s find rest for our souls. Amen.