What God May Want to Teach Us through Our Exhaustion

rusting windowLately, I’ve felt exhausted. If it’s not the physical exhaustion from waking up multiple times a night to feed my four month old, it’s the exhaustion that comes with trying so hard to instill character and discipline in my 2, 4, and 5 year olds. But the reminding, the instructing, the modeling, the reinforcing—well, as any parent in the trenches knows, it’s a lot. It is hard work that takes everything you’ve got… and then some.

The other night on my way back from a book group I attend, I was thinking about some of the other mothers I know and how there is this same look of exhaustion and, at times, almost desperation in their eyes. I was thinking about how often we long to spend more time with each other, but we simply don’t have any more of ourselves to give when it comes to the end of our days. And then I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me with this question:

Do you think there might be a purpose in the near-constant state of exhaustion that we feel as parents of young children?

“A purpose?” I wondered. “Why would there be a purpose to our exhaustion?”

1. “You Need Me.” The words came as a loving reminder. A newborn baby relies on his or her caregivers for everything. From feeding, to changing, to swaddling, or even burping—a baby is an adorable bundle of need, but a bundle of need, nonetheless.

But like that baby, we as mamas are needy, dependent beings too. We face taxing physical demands: night-wakings, carrying little ones, feeding, bathing, changing, dressing, undressing, cooking and laundering for them. And beyond the physical, as our children grow, there are the almost moment-by-moment dilemmas we face in questions of discipline and priorities, the trying of our patience, and the doubting of our own wisdom.

Perhaps, God wants us to begin parenthood feeling completely at the end of ourselves because that’s the place where good parenting begins. When we realize that we aren’t enough, when we realize how desperately we need God to show up, perhaps that’s the place where everything that is any good happens.

2. “You Can’t Do It All.”
I tend to burn the candle on both ends. I have a hard time turning in when something I’m working on isn’t finished. I have to remind myself that the Bible says, “In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat, for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2)

Part of the discipline of trusting the Lord, is trusting that he has given exactly the number of hours we need to do the tasks he wants us to do. We rest in his grace and not in our power or works, when we go to bed at a reasonable time or even take a nap when we need it. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1).

Jesus, himself, moved within the limits of a twenty-four hour day. Certainly, he could have worked later or gotten up earlier…healed one more, taught one more parable, but he trusted in the limits God had put on his physical body. How much more should we trust God with leaving things undone! He is in control. And rest is his gift of grace to us.

3. “You Are Loved, Just Because.” Sometimes when we are exhausted, we just can’t. We can’t take the meal to the family who is in need. We can’t sign up for the ministry that could desperately use an extra hand. We can’t even perfect our talents or gifts because quite frankly, we don’t have the time or the energy.

And you know what, it’s okay. (Gasp!)

Yes, it’s okay. It’s okay because God doesn’t love you for what you do for Him. He loves you simply because He is love. It’s okay because the success of God’s great plans doesn’t rest on your shoulders, but on His. It’s okay because life has seasons, and you are in an especially demanding season.

When I was younger, I read the biography of Amy Carmichael, a famous missionary to India who cared for hundreds of orphaned children. The thing that made the biggest impression on me was what she learned at the end of her life. After a lifetime of “doing” for Jesus, she was stuck in bed. While her mind was strong, her body was not. And for the first time, she learned that God did not love her for what she “did” for him—as if God actually needs anything from us—but that he loved her, simply loved her.

While God certainly is pleased when we join Him in serving others, He does not “need” us. He loves us even when all we can do is lie in bed. He loves us for who we are in Him.

I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly sure God is trying to teach me something through the exhausting, desperate days of parenthood. What better place to start the journey than at the end of ourselves. What better way to love our kids, than to know that while we are finite we can point them to a God whose strength is infinite. What better way to rest in what we have to give today, than in knowing we are loved, simply loved.

So dear one, if you are exhausted, breathe. Go to bed early tonight and trust in the limitations God has given you as part of His grace to you. Trust that the little you have is enough, if you give it to Him. Trust that He loves you, and rest.

 

Isn’t it good news that God is speaking to us in even the hardest places? I’ve come to live expecting to hear from Him in all kinds of places… places of hope, of desperation, and of joy. He whispers to us in all of these if we listen. Would you join me in expecting God in our everyday lives and struggles? If I could encourage you in this listening…in this living expectantly, it would be my honor to have you sign up to receive these posts straight to your inbox.

A Slow Mercy: How Sabbath Re-Creates Us

SONY DSC(Note: Written in September 2012. Published March 2013 during a short sabbatical with my family.)

He’s a world of coos and smiles lying on a picnic blanket on a perfect September Sunday. I’m lost in his beaming again, like the love-struck mama I am, eight months and 14 days into this baby love. But he’s looking beyond me at a world of dappled light through the shimmering leaves of an oak in its full-summer glory. I’m enjoying just watching him while he gazes happily at this outdoor mobile of light and branches, so much better than anything his nursery boasts.

The sun is beginning to dip below the line of the hanging limbs and is now looking me in the face. I feel the heat of its stare but don’t mind. The breeze catches my attention and lifts my glance up to see a hawk gliding through the air above, catching wave upon wave of updraft until I must strain my neck to see its perfect pleasure so high above. It glides lower now in slow s curves, seeming to revel in the pure motion and grace of its descent.

I can hear the warm baritone of my husband’s voice several yards away. He’s happily caught up in conversation with another doting father, while my older son—just two and a half—and his new playground pal share giggles and sit super close, the way children do when they’ve found instant friendship.

I love these Sabbath days. I love how they slow us down to see the beauty of our blessings. I love how they allow us to feel the pleasure in simply being. I love how they whisper to us of the goodness of God, who built such a day into the rhythm of His creation that we might know rest.

Why do we so often sabotage this goodness God has planned for us by treating this day like any other? Why do we resist rest? Perhaps deep down we know that rest leaves us exposed. It exposes the lies that our worth is found in our doing, that our busyness is a true measure of our importance, and that it all depends on us.

Sabbath is grace and we’d rather not think we need such charity. But we do. How desperately we need this grace of rest.

Most of us, myself included, run from Sabbath. We run either straightway into legalism—making it all about rigid rules–or headlong into license—dismissing its importance altogether. But on the days when I listen, I hear the echo of my Lord’s words from that long-ago Sabbath day when he healed and fed his followers, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

God made this day for us. It is a gift. Can we open our hands to accept it? Can we align our lives around the rhythm of renewal? When we do, we will find a weekly re-creation. We will be made new again to the joy of simply being His creation, to the rightness of how he made us to be in relationship with Him, with each other, and with this world He gave us. We will find the burdens of our own making slip from us as we soar on the updraft of His grace.

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