Jesus said, “Come to me… and I will give you rest.” I wonder what he’d say to people who feel exhausted from their church commutes and commitments.
Human productivity is bound to the constraints of a 24 hour day. Individually, we have to acknowledge our limitations and rest, even if inadequately, before springing up again for our work. We’re not God, we aren’t capable of finishing our creations in a day, a week, or even a year sometimes. We must break off and sleep before then. Sleep is a physical humility, an acknowledgment that we grow tired and must stop. Our progress comes in halting steps, our work never quite finished, so unlike the God who created the world in six days and then rested. Even for movers and shakers, rest is a reminder that we exist within limitations of body and spirit. It also means trusting in God’s greater power, that he will work on our behalf even when we’re unconscious. It means believing that he “gives to his beloved even in his sleep” (Psalm 127:2).
So what happens when we get so busy that we don’t rest?
I’m not sure that’s our situation — we’re thrilled with a great church, great friends, a great house, and great family. But the phrase “too much of a good thing”? We haz it.
Lately, we’ve realized that church/Bible study commitments take us out of the house three or four days each week. This wouldn’t be a huge problem if our life revolved solely around the church. But it doesn’t — we both work at least 40 hours a week, our social network is mostly based outside the church (my sister and her boyfriend are the only other people there even close to our age), and both our families are in town. This is all great, but it involves greater and greater investments of our time. We’re blessed, but blessings have to be cared for, cultivated, nurtured. It all takes time.
Ironically, I know that so far as church and a peer group are concerned, one has supported the other. In all honesty, we probably would’ve hightailed it out of the church early on if we had moved to another city and were starting fresh with our social circle. I believe that family-based community and worship offers fantastic rewards, and I am so lucky to call the women at our church my friends, even if they are 10 to 40 years older than me. They tell great stories, give excellent advice, and are genuinely hilarious people that I love to be around. But the desire for bosom buddies and best friends isn’t a spiritual failing. David had Jonathan, so why are we surprised when we long for those close friendships with our peers as well as those younger and older than us? We want someone who not only remembers being our age but still has the youthful endurance to climb the mountain with us, not only say “I’ve been there” but “I’m walking alongside you.” Whatever our age, we want somebody who understands the year’s confines and joys in the present tense. I firmly believe that having a network of peers outside of our church was one of the reasons we stayed long enough in the church to put down roots. And I’m so glad we did.
That raises another question, which is why there’s no one else our age at Evergreen, no young couples or professional singles embarking on their careers. Part of the answer is almost certainly the church’s location, as it’s close to the heart of Powhatan. And quite simply, twentysomethings don’t usually move to Powhatan. We can’t afford acres of land for our first house, and why move so far out if you can’t have that? Many of us are still eager to make the most of our pre-dependents lifestyle, enjoying the opportunities it affords because we know it doesn’t last forever. The baby lust is (admittedly) creeping closer, and we know traditional ritual of “settling down” is not far ahead. We look forward to that, we do. But when that responsibility is approaching, five acres isn’t exactly on the horizon. Powhatan’s demographics are, by and large, those who have moved past that stage. It’s for the families with children who are ready for a steadier rhythm if not a slower pace. We’re just not part of that more rural lifestyle yet.
Even so, here we are, the people we swore we’d never be, up to our eyeballs in church community and activity. We enjoy everything per se, but the margins in our life are incredibly thin. It’s not uncommon for me to arrive home and realize my poor husband hasn’t had a real dinner in a week because I walk in the door and breeze right out again, without the half-hour to prepare something (yeah, that recipe resolution? I’m still working on it and enjoying it, but the frequency ain’t there). Both our families need us, which is another evening or two a week. It’s a joy to be with them, it is. But when I get home and the laundry is piled high and the house is so dirty that I can’t relax and I walk in with Little Caesar’s again… watching my house and health (present and future) deteriorate from neglect saps the joy I feel from our community involvement. Surely all these commitments can’t be beneficial if it affects such core functions as how I treat the temple of the Holy Spirit, how I love my husband, and how I make my home welcoming to others.
How do we live intensely and fully in touch with our various communities while protecting “the margins” of life, as a friend elegantly phrased it?
To start with, we do the first things first. The idea that God gives us what we need even in our sleep is of paramount importance. That same psalm emphasizes that unless a house is built on the right foundation, it crumbles. I’ve had this conversation so many times, and yet I still misapply the lesson — we can’t get so busy doing things for God that we neglect our primary relationship with him.
Perhaps another piece of the answer will shake out over the next few months. I’m hopeful. In the meantime, may we hold the blessings close enough not to take them for granted, and loose enough to remember that they are not truly ours.