This is the view of my desk right now.
I won’t even take a picture of the kitchen sink.
Books and papers always look better stacked than dishes.
Anyways, I really don’t have time to write today (who does?) but I need to write today because writing is how I think.
I haven’t been writing much, and mostly not writing well, so you can make the inference about how that applies to my thinking.
I literally feel bombarded with information, choices, emergency, and grief. I feel overwhelmed by insane expectations (my own and then the world’s) and the constant need to plug in and gather more information, judge my progress by what I see myself and others doing, and even to check in to learn about the newest emergency and then re-enter into grief about it all once again. I check the news, read the email, flip through a scrolling feed. And while I am feeding that screen addiction, I see the beautiful pictures of first graders painting and going on nature walks, the breathtaking vacation destinations or even, that shining & empty kitchen sink…with cookies poised just so onto a platter and just in frame and I am once again reminded about how amazing that all looks and I begin to wonder why didn’t I plan that (or that or that) into our day, too?
I find, though, as I talk with those around me, that this isn’t something I struggle with alone.
How do I know when “enough is enough?”
Is there “enough?”
How can I be diligent about living life, and living it well, without being rigorous (after all we weren’t made for rigor…think rigor mortis…)
How do I add painting and creativity and experience joy in my day (even without the first-grader delighted eyes) and live where God has called and do the dishes (again), teach the math (again), take out the trash (again), have that hard discussion (again), meet with that neurologist (or worse yet, not get an appointment with the neurologist) and come to terms with that knee that won’t let me forget what I’ve done in the past?
What about when the text comes telling us how another Veteran took his own life, or when that child goes and pulls a Prodigal move and then in the same day finding out that the family who has already had so much heartbreak, just had their hearts shattered again?
How do I get up and keep doing the next thing when so many hearts keep breaking next door and down the street and across the ocean and even within the walls of my own home and my own chest?
And not just how to do this, but how to do this with love and joy, even though the hair keeps turning silver and the giant dog has cancer and the chicken still isn’t cooked through and it is 8:15 already and nothing seems to be working according to plan!?
Life, this broken-world-kind-of-life, can all seem to be a bit of groaning agony, right?
Whether it is in piles on my desk or in my sink, with work or health, life, politics, finances, relationships or death …it is never as it should be (& there is no perfect plan) because it isn’t as it was meant to be (& the Perfect Plan is really the Perfect Person to redeem the hearts of this world-& that is Who we should seek instead of a plan)….(Romans 1:18-25, Romans 5:17, Romans 7:7-25, Romans 8:22-24)
But seeking Jesus doesn’t really make sense to my “cultured mind”. It doesn’t fulfill my desire to do, to strive, to fix, to be in control (Genesis 3:1-13).
Surrender, obedience, waiting: none of that is my natural bent or in my natural vocabulary. Scrolling and checking things off the list, seem easier, more productive, more satisfying than praying and trusting and just doing the next thing in front of me.
But when I step back to rest and wait, when I pray before I do, something happens. (Romans 12:12, Philippians 4:10-20, Isaiah 30:15, Psalm 46:10).
First, it happens in my heart, then in how I live out my days.
This change, it enables me to embrace that which isn’t natural for me.
For example, there is a Latin motto we have in our home: “Cum dignitate otium” . This, translated simply means, “rest with dignity”. I love this motto. (I am not naturally good at practicing this motto). Rest is valuable; it is actually an act of trust. Trusting that God is working and that I don’t need to work out every little detail on my own.
Out of the 10 laws God gave Moses, an entire law was devoted to this time of rest. God knows we need rest, need to remember that we are not God and that we would choose industry, and doing, over rest every time. What I love about the “rest with dignity” motto is that it means in our rest, we are not seeking laziness or escape, but refreshment, reflection, renewal, and connection. It sounds fancy but really, it is a time to say no to the cacophony of the other “stuff” vying for our attention and to just focus on the Giver of all the good that has been given, created, and accomplished.
This quote by Augustine, it sums it up better than I ever could:
“O Lord, You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
When I rest in the arms of God, all the mess, each dirty dish or tragedy or gray hair, cancer diagnoses or unaccomplished task, they all take on a new perspective from the vantage point of being held.
This resting reminds me that I am not the one doing the holding.
It assures me that I don’t need to keep it all together or to impress “so & so” to ensure my spot on the “list” (whichever list might be circulating at the time). The truth of the matter is, if I am a Christian, I have specific things I am to aim towards in my life and none of those things I mentioned above are it.
The Great Commandment?
To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:28-34)
I also read:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and that only one thing is really necessary.(Matthew 6:33, Luke 10:42)
Also; to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
No wonder why Jesus says “my burden is light”(Matthew 11:30)…these are not easy commands but they are simple and the goal line never moves.
I can rest knowing He Is, He was and He always will be (Hebrews 13:8). And suddenly, the task list, the hard things ahead, they don’t appear any smaller, not even any easier, but the strength that I find and the hope my heart holds is unshakable.( 2 Corinthians 1:7, 2 Timothy 4:17, Philippians 4:13, Hebrews 12:28) This hope, this is what gives me the courage to love through the hard things (even when I would rather run away instead… like on a Tuesday morning when the sink is full, the relationship is frayed and everything else has hit the fan at once).
It is only when I forget, when I try to do the holding, or worse yet, when I push away because, like a toddler, I want to do it my way, this is when I lose strength, lose hope and enter into grief.
The world’s goals are on a constant move, and they are never one hundred percent obtainable.
Jesus doesn’t mess around like that.
He tells it like it is (“in this world you will have trouble”), but He also offers a hope (“I have overcome the world”) that is our anchor in any storm, through any trial no matter how trivial or tragic (Hebrews 6:19, John 16:33, 1 John 4:4).
And so, back to my original question,
How do I know when “enough is enough?”
Is there “enough?”
And the overwhelming answer is and always will be: Jesus.
He is enough, was enough, will be enough.
For whatever has happened, will happen, is happening, even today.
Turning toward Him and resting in His faithfulness gives me strength and wisdom to do the next thing.(Hebrews 12:2)
Whether that next thing is repentance, forgiveness, relationship reconciliation, algebra, the dishes or even the mundane tasks here on my desk.
And that, my friends, can make the difference in how I can love and have joy and peace even in the hardest times.
Praying that we each find our rest in Him this week.