- Do schoolwork
- Go for a run
- Call a friend
- Go to the grocery
- Quiet Time with God
- Clean the apartment
- Go to class
Do you ever feel like having a quiet time is just another thing to check off the to-do list? I do, all the time. And if I don't have the opportunity to check that box off every day, I feel like I've failed God and failed myself. I am not supposed to let anyone- including the Lord- think that I can't juggle a million things at once with excellence.
While spending a summer in Indonesia, I watched many women lift enormous bags onto their heads to carry throughout the rice fields or on the occasional paved road. The heart-wrenching image of a husband hauling a sack (the size of a large trash bag) on top of his frail wife's head will always stick with me. Regardless of cultural differences, I never felt right letting a woman 4x my age carry a heavy load with a hunched back. Apparently, though, carrying things on your head alleviates back problems and makes the load much lighter- something I never have really been able to grasp, even now!
One day, on a trip to the market to get more gas for our "stove," my teammates and I struggled to drag the full container of gas along the road. Because of the frail state of our "ibu" (Indo for "mother"), we insisted that we could carry the container on our own. Don't let the picture fool you; the little container felt like it contained a ton of bricks! Imagine three white girls in the middle of nowhere attempting to drag a heavy and bright green container of gas through a village or two- an interesting sight. Ibu grinned and let us struggle down the road, as if making her point known. But finally she walked up to us, said a few sentences in Indo (which of course we didn't understand), then placed the heavy load high atop her head. Rather than slouching and struggling along, she walked at a pace we could hardly keep up with- especially through those huge, wet, and winding rice fields! If we had given up that heavy load from the very beginning, we could have just enjoyed the beautiful Balinese view:
In these days of due dates and traffic lights, we are far busier than people have ever been in the past. Rest is a thing for the lazy and undisciplined, and people walk around with heavy loads on a daily basis. When teaching his disciples, Jesus gave them comforting words about rest:
"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you an learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light." -Matt. 11: 28-30
Although meant to alleviate burdens and make life easier, my to-do lists often cause me to grow weary when I am not able to complete them. If I have so much to do that I forget to read my Bible one day or fail to finish some important task, I feel heavy-laden and burdened by the guilt and shame of my own inadequacy. It seems that God stays far from anyone who does not check the "God box" off the list at the end of each day... making Jesus' yoke hard and His burden heavy. But Matthew 11:30 says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light... so where am I going wrong?
Because the book of Matthew was written primarily for the Jews of Jesus' time, it makes sense that Jesus spoke of giving rest. The Jews had succumbed to a life of living by the law, and the Pharisees were the best at it. They lived their lives to perfect themselves and found meaning in life based upon their ability to obey the law. I find that to be exhausting, especially when I realize I'm not too different from those Jews. Emily Freeman's book Grace for the Good Girl describes the traits of a "good girl"- a Christian who lives to perform for others under the guise of a disciplined life and unshakeable good mood. Rather than heaping more responsibility on the heavy-laden Jews, Jesus says:
"Why don't you stop trying so hard to please yourself and others? It obviously has become a heavy burden for you. Put away your lists and your plans and your masks, and rest in the knowledge that I will never come undone. I can never be overwhelmed by anything. When you trust Me, you please Me. Stop dragging around your container of rules and strong faces, and let me carry them. If you will, then you will finally be able to delight in Me."
I'm learning to find rest in the God who can never be overwhelmed. Just like handing the gas tank over to the frail but capable old woman, I can hand my concerns and masks and my try-hard life over to the only One who is capable of carrying them. And once I am free of the heavy burdens, I will finally be free to delight in the view and presence of my Savior.