Updated: Apr 21, 2022
“Come to me all of you, that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” [Mt 11.28]
Greg Tuttle’s idea for our curbside ministry with the sign “Rest Here” resonates with many since campus reopened in February. Who isn’t weary these days? Technology and our break-neck pace have not eased our burdens—for many the average quantity of life has vastly increased, but how about the quality? Many students, staff and faculty have shared their weariness with me—I know it’s not just me. Finally, I lost a dear friend to suicide over winter break, which was a slap in the face for me to wake up and reexamine my own life.
Pastors are supposed to have it together, right? Well…if we are to be examples to others, then that must mean not getting it right and living a life of repentance—turning from death toward life, over and over—because we realize again that we got it wrong and need to try another way.
With our building project stretching out several extra years because of bureaucratic delays, several of you have been kind enough to let me know that I looked tired. As that concern became a bit more insistent, I began to notice that my eyes already felt heavy by noon or even mid-morning on most days. I thank each of you who cared to tell me that you noticed.
I have long considered myself a ‘morning person’ eager to meet the day, and that is generally true of me. I am usually up between three am to five am for some meditation, prayer, reading, and, until recently, getting a ‘jump’ on the day’s work, followed by walking the dog two to three miles. Sometimes I would grab a nap before the trip to school and work, but more often, I would just steam right on into the day.
When we were in-person on campus pre-Covid, students dropping in every day and the energy of campus were more than enough to keep me going. But as our online meetings felt, to many of us, like just one more thing to schedule and reschedule, the joy of community gave way to screen time—a poor substitute for sharing a meal face to face—or just absence.
Finally, a few colleagues, friends and family urged me to take a break. So I swallowed my pride and put their advice to action by breaking my stride and catching my breath. The first week ‘off’ was mostly a bust. Thoughts of work undone and habits of short sleep persisted until I collapsed after a family trip with hardly any sleep on a strange sofa. I realized my prideful Midwestern work ethic was really just internalized capitalism—the lie that my existence is only justified by what I produce—an inversion of my identity as a child of God with intrinsic worth. Funny isn’t it, how often we proclaim things to others that we forget to apply to ourselves?
The way the story goes, it took the Hebrew people forty years in the wilderness to learn to live free after four hundred years of slavery. It took that long to remember their creation in the image of the divine, graced with love and freedom as an unearned gift. By Exodus numbers, it might take me four years to recover from forty years of working—right now, that feels about right… I’ll let you know what I might learn after forty days of Lent—my new favorite church season.