It’s hard to believe that Christmas is almost here and that 2020 is nearly over. Of course, most of us are probably glad to see the end of 2020. I’m guessing, too that many of us have been praying and hoping that 2021 will be significantly different and better than the year about to reach its conclusion. Though given that dates on a calendar are somewhat artificial as far as dividing lines go, we also know that there are no guarantees of this.
Yet we hope. We pray. We long for a new, better day.
Because, let’s face it, aren’t we all just tired?
Today I went into Yarmouth to bring our one year old Yorkshire Terrier, Izzy, to get spayed. And between dropping her off and picking her up I had about 4 hours to run some errands and do some Christmas shopping. So this means I spent a considerable part of my day having to wear a mask. Store after store had signs posted that masks are required to enter. And as far as I could tell, most people were complying with the guidelines.
Now, I’m not going to get into the politics of all of this. Instead, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we have this collective sense of weariness, a COVID weariness. It’s often all we see in our news feeds. It’s all around us. It has seeped into all the nooks and crannies of our lives. Everything from our workplaces, relationships, schools, holidays, and routines–nothing remains untouched.
And I don’t know about you, but I think we’re all simply tired.
My family and I (try to) practice a weekly 24 hour Sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday evening (generally, we succeed at this). Lately, when Friday evening has arrived, and when we have finished supper, I have felt exhausted. Just wiped out. I mentioned this to my wife and speculated whether this was the result of spending the afternoon getting ready for Sabbath (there is some important prep involved) or the accumulation of the week’s routine and activity. She, in her wisdom, pointed something out that was quite profound.
She said that Sabbath was the reason I was feeling exhausted–or rather the reason I noticed I was exhausted. In other words, taking the time to stop and rest–to exhale, say–made me aware just how much I needed time to breath and be still. Instead, if I didn’t observe Sabbath, and went about that day like any other, pushing ahead with activity and work, I might not even realize just how weary I was.
How often do we push ahead and push through without giving consideration to our need for rest, time to recuperate, to recaliberate, to just be?
I think part of my feeling of exhaustion connects to this year. It’s been a year unlike any other in recent memory. Our hearts and minds and souls have been pummelled by a divisive media, the curtailing of so much of our normal lives, and the feeling that our world is an increasingly uncertain and unsafe place.
Honestly, is it any wonder that we can feel emotionally, mentally, even physically drained?
I know a lot of us are waiting or straining to get back to our so-called normal lives. But do we want everything to go back exactly as it was?
Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel, says this to those willing to hear:
Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.Matthew 11:28–29 (CSB)
While not always a fan of Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase of the Bible, I do appreciate how he renders these words of Jesus.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.Matthew 11:28–29 (MSG)
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I love that.
Listen to what Jesus is saying here. Look at what he invites you to do. It’s intimacy with him that is our source of rest. It’s being with him that brings us much needed relief.
Rest from feeling the weight of everyone else’s expectations.
Rest from the feeling that you’re never good enough.
Rest from the pressure to perform.
Rest from having to keep up with the people around you.
Rest from social media, technology, and the 24 hour news cycle.
Rest from living as though life is all about what you do rather than who you are.
Rest from yourself.
Of course, to learn such rhythms we need to stop long enough to realize our need for rest. Jesus seeks to give us real rest. Rest for our souls. Now that’s a deep, down rest, the kind of rest that I know I want, that I know I need. I feel it in my heart. I feel it in my bones.
It’s the kind of rest I think we all need. Maybe especially now.
Jesus is that rest, whether in a time of COVID or any other season.