“So what are you hoping has changed since this time last year? What differences do you want in your life?” They were thoughtful questions from my dearest friend who is truly gifted in asking questions and even better at genuinely listening to answers. I knew the answer but struggled to articulate it. “I don’t want to add. I want less.” That’s how my answer came out, but after some thought, that’s exactly what I meant. Grief, loss and a pandemic stripped my family utterly bare last year. Slowly, the Lord is gathering us back and clothing us with fresh garments. The scars remain and the sadness dwells in our home, yet we are growing and learning. And it’s true, I don’t want to add, I want less.
But the temptation and the guilt are present. As we drove to worship with our church on Sunday morning, I told my husband, “I know it’s not true, but it feels like we aren’t doing anything for church anymore.” We no longer teach a Sunday school class, for many different reasons. I don’t feel comfortable caring for large groups of children anymore. We don’t greet people at the door, sing on stage, pass an offering plate, nothing “behind the scenes” or any of the kindhearted volunteer work that is generally considered serving. My sweet husband kindly reminded me of the things we are doing and truths I already knew, the most important being that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are striving to “do all things to the glory of God” even the seemingly mundane.
My personality type leans towards legalism and a works based ideology. I like lists and schedules. I thrive having a plan and I don’t rest well. While we aren’t a family that has ever been constantly on the go, I am the person that doesn’t say no very often. I take that back, I say no to a lot of things, but usually the wrong things. People generally ask me to do things, in part, because I often say yes. Need a helper? Sure. Volunteer? Ok. Something completely outside of my gifting, but still a need? Count me in.
This was me and then an interesting thing happened. There was no one asking me for anything and there was nothing that needed to be done. When you lose a child, people catch on pretty fast that “now’s not a great time to ask them for something.” And rightfully so, because I couldn’t have done anything. Early on, a kind woman reminded me to accept the help people were offering. “It’s ok,” she said, “you’ll be the helper again one day.” It was kind and such an encouragement. At that point, we were surviving and that was ok. Then came a pandemic and no one needed me to do the traditional things, because the traditional things weren’t happening. This was not only ok, but a gift. Now before I go any further, I want to be clear that people asking for help or volunteers is not wrong. It is no one else’s fault that I felt compelled to do so much. I also do not believe that God was trying to teach me a lesson by ushering forth a pandemic or taking my daughter. That would be incredibly small minded and arrogant. I do believe that God is gracious and sometimes allows us to grow and learn from even the most tragic circumstances.
The expectations are returning. The schedules are getting full. We are adding and we aren’t settling for less. It’s not what I want.
Fast forward a year and a handful of months. I sense it, do you? The expectations are returning. The schedules are getting full. We are adding and we aren’t settling for less. It’s not what I want. I want to take time to talk to the grandmother at swim lessons. I want to learn that she is concerned for her son’s safety at his job. I want to hear her and be able to offer hope if possible. I want to go to the library with my kids, only to discover there is a magician performing a show. I want to enjoy watching the amazement on my kid’s faces and never look to see how long our trip is becoming. I want to read my Bible for the sheer love of God and what He has to say, not to check a box on a reading plan. I want to pray because I have the privilege of sitting at the feet of God and communing with him, not simply voice a laundry list of requests. I want to serve others out of love, not obligation.
Jesus doesn’t want to add to our burden, he wants to lighten it.
Some will protest that I am coming from a point of privilege. That I can’t possibly understand what your schedule demands of you. How could I know what it is like being a single mom working three jobs? Or someone caring for chronically ill parents? What must it be like to have a special needs child that demands your constant care and attention? You are right. I can’t know and I won’t pretend that I can relate. But I would like to take the time to listen and try to understand. There have been so many times in the last year I have felt that people just couldn’t understand my suffering, or my pain. Truthfully, most can’t and I’m grateful for that. But Jesus knows. He knows my heart and life and he knows yours too. And Jesus doesn’t want to add to our burden, he wants to lighten it.
Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” What a beautiful promise. His yoke is easy and his burden light. We aren’t meant to constantly be stacking on more and more, but letting go and following Christ. Of course to follow Jesus, means to live like Jesus, but that’s another post for another day.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Matthew 11:28
Margin. It’s a bit of a buzzword. The idea of allowing time and space for rest, contentment, joy and above all for the Holy Spirit to move and work. I want to create space for what Jesus has for me and far less of what others might be promoting. Less obligation, less expectations, less scheduled serving and less stress. And I guess I do want to add more. I hope that the Lord adds more joy, more peace, more patience, more humility, more kindness and more self-control. I hope that Jesus will lead me to serve him and others in the ways he has gifted me to serve and that I will be a blessing to others, not a burden. I want to add rest, true rest, that can only come from Jesus and I want far less of what this world has to offer.