As I continue to reflect on my adult life that was often stressed, too busy, and left me tired in ways not replenished by a weekend of sleeping late or opting out of a committee or two, I knew a great deal about what was wrong and even some of the choices I made that brought me to that bone-tired frazzled place. A graduate program in clinical counseling reveals a lot of glaring things about yourself long before you sit down with your first client.
The hard part for me (and maybe you) was that the choices I made and the things I did were not bad things. In fact, they were good things that others were glad I was doing. They didn’t see the toll and for quite some time I didn’t see it either.
I would never have called myself especially prideful. I knew there were pockets of it, but I didn’t see it connecting to my busy, stressed, and tiring life.
Then when I was reading Hannah Anderson’s book, Humble Roots, she brought me into sharper focus.
“But being busy with good things didn’t make me immune to pride. If anything, those of us who are busy “working for Jesus” may be the first to miss that we are struggling with pride because it can hide our good intentions.”
When I first read her words I felt something well up inside against such a suggestion. How could that be right? I was a Midwesterner who grew up with a strong work ethic and conviction about helping others and serving in our church. My parents were active in every area of the church and we were one of those families who were there Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday night at the very least. It was the model I grew up believing in and then lived as an adult.
A few pages after reading those words from Hannah, she added a bit more to broaden the picture (and conviction).
“Pride convinces us that we are stronger and more capable than we actually are. Pride convinces us that we must do and be more than we are able. And when we try, we find ourselves feeling “thin, sort of stretched…like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” (From J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring) We begin to fall apart physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the simple reason that we are not existing as we were meant to exist.”
That description of Tolkien’s resonated for a chunk of my life when I was working and going to school. The sad part was that it became an entrenched habit. I lost track of how to relax and be okay with doing nothing even for a short period. It happened progressively. Rest was not a real part of my routine. There was always something to do or something I wanted to do. I had learned early in childhood laziness was not a good thing. I had also never learned to play, kick back, and relax. Those things felt awkward and foreign to me. Rest sounded slothful.
Yet, over and over Jesus admonishes his disciples (that includes you and me) to rest, to leave the cares of the world behind. What can be far too easy to miss is that He wants us to rely on Him more than we rely on ourselves. That means accepting the truth that I must be dependent on Him. It means when the body He created makes clear that I am tired, He wants me to rest. It means when the mind keeps spinning, He wants me to rest. It means when I can’t find a place on my calendar for one more thing, He wants me to step back and look at His life on earth.
He had three short years of ministry recorded in the gospels. Those of us in the current day would have developed a strategic plan and had our calendars crammed full. We see Jesus instead having time with friends like Lazarus, Mary, & Martha. We see Him enjoying dinner with others and going away to rest or pray when crowds were seeking Him out. What a clear contrast to us in ministry!
Hannah Anderson gives a good description of what too many of us experience on a regular basis.
“When we disregard our natural human limitations, we set ourselves in God’s place. When we insist that our voice and our work is essential and must be honored, we set ourselves in God’s place. When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God’s place. And when we do, we reap stress, restlessness, and anxiety. Instead of submitting to His yoke, we break it and run wild, trampling the very ground we are meant to cultivate.”
It can be easy to forget that the power of humility does not rely on its own strength, but trusts in the One who is powerful and infinitely resourceful.