Images from childhood offer rich illustrations for us throughout our lives. Some days just feel like the merry-go-round on the playground. Though safety concerns are causing them to disappear faster than hot chocolate chip cookies, you may recall your favorite merry-go-round. Can you remember the painted metal platform spinning as someone on the ground pumps it faster around by pushing the metal grab bars as they go past? Now remember the feeling of being on and wanting to get off, but it is spinning too quickly to safely jump off. I think of that image some days.
There are days when we seem to move from day into night into the next day... and the next... without stopping. There are days - and there are even seasons of life - when the relentless forward motion can feel like a centrifuge pressing us, wide-eyed and arms spread, into the outer boundary of whatever would contain us. Some call it feeling out of control. Some say exhausted. Call it what you will, I suspect you've been there too. We may want to say, 'stop the world, I want to get off!' even if just for a while.
We need rest but rest is elusive.
We long for sleep but do not find it in the demands of the day and night, especially in caring for young children or for those who need constant care.
And so we look for things we think will help us cope...slow down... restore sanity...bring order out of chaos....or just get through the day. To be sure, there are some healthy practices that we need to incorporate into our lives which help us manage stress. My mother is fond of saying, "what you're looking for is usually at the end of your nose." She's right: what we need is often closer than we imagine.
Some find it in indulging in pursuits that promise to take us away: we indulge in food, wine, chocolate, (chips and salsa usually works for me), or for the more industrious (and wiser), exercise. While the endorphins produced via exercise do help promote the well-being we long for, the side-effects of too much sugar or salt and the unhealthy foods we attack leave us more distressed than they found us. In the words of Peter, Paul & Mary, "when will we ever learn?" *
The way of wisdom teaches me: "Don't look for rest and comfort in places you cannot find it. "
We are still looking for love in all the wrong places, to paraphrase a 1980's song. Self love, that is. We care for others, but often neglect ourselves.
Jesus says, in language of the heart, "YOU, precious child, are worth caring for.
YOU, young, exhausted mom, are Mine, and I know best how to care for and tend My flock.
YOU, middle-aged child of Mine, have so much of life still to live fully in My care. I can show you how to dust off those dreams and discover the person you yet can become!
YOU, mature child of Mine, may be advanced in years, but time is as a whisper with Me, and you are still vibrant and lovely, and I long to caress you tenderly with my Spirit.
YOU are my beloved."
Each of us is beloved of the Father! Part of God's loving care is to restore us when we fail and grow weary. The scriptures address this in many places. I love: "Come unto me when you are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest."
Draw near. Come as you are. No need to clean up our act or put on a happy face. Come as children with grimey, tear-streaked faces after a fall. And Jesus, lover of our souls, will tenderly wipe away all tears from our eyes. He, by the power of the Spirit, will restore us when we cannot restore ourselves. And somehow....even if just for a while....the merry go 'round slows to a manageable pace; and we can exit, gain sure footing again, and maintain equilibrium for the day. For His mercies are everlasting and His will is ever directed to His children's good.
"Come unto Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Lord Jesus, Your invitation comes with a promise. You will give rest when we come to You. It sounds so simple. Perhaps approaching You will become our first resort, rather than our last. Amen
* lyrics from Where Have All the Flowers Gone by Pete Seeger, 1961
photo by whateverthing