For When You’re Sick and Weary

What do you do when you’re sick? Of yourself? Your circumstances?

All of these feelings, these words, these thoughts, these repetitious tendencies and cycles of events?

What happens when it feels really old and stale and oppressively recycled? Like a moldy shower curtain that won’t seem to come clean no matter how much bleach you scrub it with. Like a taste you can’t get out of your mouth. Like a bad penny that just keeps showing up.

What then? How do you move forward? How do you keep from throwing your hands up?

The past two years, I’ve heard a similar sermon on rest this time of year, preached by local St. Louis pastor Zak Eswine. This year, I wasn’t afforded the privilege. This year, I just have to remember. And what I remember is that he says that there are different kinds of pains and different kinds of rest. Often times, we try to treat one kind of pain and weariness with the same kind of rest that we would another. For example, you are behind on sleep, physically exhausted. So you sleep. You are emotionally exhausted. So you sleep. You are mentally or spiritually tired. So you sleep. However, not every kind of weariness will be solved with sleep. Not every kind of weariness will be solved by time. Or reflecting. Or working harder. Or resting with our eyes open. Or escaping.

Some kinds of weariness require other solutions.

What is your go-to salve, your way of dealing? Music? Eating? Running? Hiding? Perhaps you need to vent, to clean, to purchase. None of these things, inherently, are bad, but perhaps your go-to fix just isn’t cutting it anymore. Perhaps the problem persists, the hurt still bruises, the fog won’t clear. Because diagnosing an emotional problem with a physical treatment is like slathering Bactine on a broken heart. Sure, it might help if there are some accompanying scrapes and cuts, but what’s really going to heal that break? Resetting and a cast just won’t do.

Are you physically exhausted? Sick? Perhaps you need sleep, or medicine, or other rest.

Are you emotionally exhausted? Perhaps you need time, or a friend, an outlet, or a [brief] escape.

Are you spiritually exhausted? Perhaps you need prayer, truth, a reminder.

Perhaps you need all of it.

Tonight, I’m wishing that it wasn’t just hindsight that was 20/20. I’m praying for new eyes, for insight into the heart and mind, for clarity and sight into what will heal and renew, for what kind of “funk” causes this sickness-  the stem, the root, the system that planted it. I don’t just want to slap a Band-aid on my exhaustion; I’d rather get a second opinion. I’m all in for full healing, for homeopathic remedies that really reach home. Into the depths. Inside, out. I’m all in for rewriting the story, for making the sad things untrue.

Perhaps you’re looking for that too. What’s the diagnosis, the issue? Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose, right?

It just might be time for another check-up. And after that, well, not just any treatment will do.

Delivery

I took a break the other day, and it was very, very needed. Suffice to say that I brought myself to a new low, one that I did not realize I was capable of spiraling into, a new level of exhaustion that I had previously left untapped… It makes me wonder about even lower levels, but that would be another exploration into anxiety, and I need no more of that.

-1

So I took a day… I was given a day. And, it was so, so needed.

And, I suppose that I should clarify and say that it wasn’t a whole day. It was really just a morning because after that I worked eight hours on my schoolwork to prepare for the following day because I felt that that might also help me to calm my brain, if I finished a few tasks.

So I took the morning. And I ran. (I HATE running…) I slept in, I cuddled up to my husband a little, and then I laced up my tennis shoes, and I RAN, and I breathed, and I RAN… And before I had left on this run, my head was feeling still pretty cloudy, but I had learned that it was my dear friend’s induction day, and she was in a lot of pain too, of a very different sort.

So, I took my phone with me, and I RAN.

And what I felt almost immediately was relief. Warmth on my skin, energy in my legs, calm in my head, and focus because all that I had to do was let the music flow into my ears, keep my eyes mostly open, and just keep running forward. That was it. Keep pressing on toward the goal… and that day my only goal was to GET OUT of my mind and RUN.

I didn’t run the whole time. Let’s not pretend that I’m some sort of athletic prodigy (that’s almost laughable!). But it felt good, and at times, I closed my eyes, and I sang out loud, and I pressed on and challenged myself to keep going. And I prayed for myself and for my friend.

“God, help us in this. Help us to get through this. Help me to get through this. Lord, I’m so tired and so confused, and I just want to be able to focus, to get through this day with clarity. I just want peace, Lord. Help me, help me, help me.” And I cried out in my mind to Him as the music pounded in my ears and my tennis shoes pounded on the asphalt. “We look to Yahweh, Yahweh! […] And He will reign forever, He will reign forever, HE WILL REIGN for-EVER and EVER!”

God spoke through my headphones via his people in Hillsong. Keep going. He’s with you. He’s yours. You are HIS. Your brokenness does not define you. You can emerge from this darkness. He is with you. He is WITH YOU! He is WITH you!

My feet kept going and my heart kept pounding and my ears kept singing and soon my mouth was singing his praises, out loud in my neighborhood, past the tennis courts and around the bends and up the hills and on the sidewalks past the streets and into a field. I watched the leaves fall, yellow and dying, onto the ground, and I prayed in my head, “Not yet, Lord. No, not yet. While I still have breath, I will praise you.” And I thought of Erika and Justin and baby Shepherd Alexander, and I prayed for them too. “She is yours, God. He is yours. That baby is yours, God. Help her through it. Bring life. While we still have breath, let us praise you. All of our energy and our might and and our breath is for you, God.”

And soon I came to a field, and I felt I should slow. Or dance.

-2

So, I jogged in a few funny circles, and I tried to decide whether to keep singing aloud or twirl in circles, to make myself even more undignified than this… to revel in this freedom.

I looked around to see if anyone was around, but the trees were high and shielding this place, so I just sat down. And Hillsong sang on, “My hiding place, my safe refuge, my treasure, Lord, you are. My friend and King, Anointed One, Most Holy.”

The words subsided and the music lingered in my ears, lulling me… so I texted Erika some words from the Lord that I was receiving too, and I lied down on the asphalt with my eyes turned up toward the blue sky, and I closed them too. I let the heat and exhaustion of my body fade as my chest rose and fell, and I let the sweat pour down my face and the world swirl around me, and I allowed the words to sink in. “I will exalt you… I will exalt you… I will exalt you. You are my God.” And after a few minutes, my eyes opened and adjusted again to the day I was given, and I stood up stronger. I breathed in, I breathed out. I breathed in, I breathed out. I looked around. And someone else was coming, now, after my respite. So, I turned and walked up a VERY steep hill (that didn’t feel quite as difficult as it usually does), and I walked home.

I showered, got some grub, and I got to work. And I wasn’t perfectly healed, but I was IMMENSELY better than I had been. And each day since has been a little better as I have learned to rest and to start my days with grace and a good Word.

Each day has been a struggle lately. Some worse than others. Fear and anxiety and confusion has overtaken me. It almost felt like it took my under. But, I’m emerging, delivered, just like beautiful Shepherd Alexander did that day, at 1:50pm (just shortly after I finished nourishing my body with a good meal), and he was 7 lbs, 13 oz, and 20.5 inches long.

533218_10101546149416139_568151369_n

He is gentle as a shepherd and strong through his King, just like me. He has weaknesses and fears and need of care, just like me. But he has a Redeemer like me, a God who does not hear his people cry out continually, over and over in anguish and despair, and not answer. Our God is a restorer, a hiding place, a safe refuge, and we will exalt Him, Shep and I. And his parents and their families too. We will cry out into the world and find the Lord drawing near, and we will find peace and deliverance, again and again. We will emerge into the world stronger and braver because of our strong, strong God. We will fight, and He will redeem us. We will be brought to places of peace of respite. We will carry on. I’m trusting that today.

971791_10103708366006674_616554872_n“I will exalt you. I will exalt you. I will exalt you. You are my God.” It’s been ringing in my ears for days.

I will exalt you, God. You are my God, indeed. I will try to get my mind out of the stubborn place where it lies and the overworked, perfection-laden spiral it shatters into, and I will try to trust you, to exercise my faith in you, to believe you when you say, REST, before I am brought low. To believe your commands and follow them. I’m trying God. I know you’ll stay with me. You are near, God. You are mine. I am yours. I am your joy and your crown, whom you love and long for. And I will try not to be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present my requests before you, and your peace, which transcends all understanding will guard my heart and my MIND in Christ Jesus.

Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Amen.

Thank you.

Now, I’m ready to take on this day.