The French have a proverb: “One may go long way after one is tired”. The thought is a provocative maxim with an unmistakably Gallic flavor of cynicism. Is it meant to inspire perseverance, or as a warning against excessive folly? This is the kind of pithy, double-edged saying at which the ancients excelled. Walk around it slowly from several angles, and draw your own conclusions.
Maybe it means this: you can find yourself weary long before you have reached your prescribed goal, so pressing in and driving yourself towards the mark is simply necessary. Odious tasks require the kind of grit-your-teeth-and-dig-in tenacity that insists you to turn down the volume on your emotions, ignore the opinions of others or the favorability of circumstances and just get it done. Sometimes, life gives us absolutely no choice. Unbearable seasons of loss, testing, sickness or grief leave us floundering for answers; there’s only one direction to go, and that’s through. This is no time to stop and analyze the mechanics of the thing…there’s only survival.
There’s a lot to be said for sheer, heavy-duty, courage and determination, of course. These virtues in their place and time are entirely necessary. In the best-case scenario, even admirable goals take far more juice to complete than we contemplated in our rose-colored daydreams. We hit psychological and visceral patches much too challenging to plan for. It’s not unusual to be caught ill-equipped and unprepared. Realistically, life is basically climbing one mountain after another (or nothing), so you had better have a tenacious grip on endurance.
On the other hand, how many times have we obstinately, mulishly continued at something long past the point we should have? You missed the exit sign that provided graceful egress off this hellish freeway, and now you’re desperately driven along before you can find the next overpass and turn around. At times, our pride, our ego, can be the worst taskmaster in the world, mercilessly fettering us to a soul-grinding situation we should have admitted to a lost cause, miles back. We’re so busy trying to salvage our self-respect and rationalize our poor choices that we don’t realize how truly exhausted we are. Few admit it, even when the epiphany comes. The truth be told: we are totally, unspeakably, weary.
Most of us move at such a frenetic pace of life that red-line stress has become an everyday part of our landscapes. Being fatigued, jaded, disillusioned, bored, wacked or utterly sapped are all symptoms of weariness. Pure physical exhaustion can be eliminated by plain resting, but being dog-tired mentally or spiritually is a far subtler issue. In the mire of weary, simple routines become meaninglessly arduous. Everything seems tedious; we’re both exhausted and bored at the same time. Emotionally, we’re riding the ragged edge; tetchy and touchy, our feelings plunging erratically at the most minimal stimuli. Our past, with all its failures and aborted dreams weighs us down in unbearable burden. Joy is evasive, even in the usual places. Casting around for refreshment and sweetness, we realize the biggest problem is not the annoyance of others. Actually, we’re totally fed up with ourselves.
This year, 2017, has been a year of great advances for me. Looking at my Day-timer the other day, I was a little amazed at what I’ve gotten accomplished. I’m staggered and highly gratified at the whirlwind of work and productivity. Being more of a ‘Mary’ by nature, it’s a little unnerving how thoroughly I’ve had ‘Martha’ on overdrive. All four burners of learning, creativity, administration, execution have been fired up so hotly and so continuously, it may explain why I find myself suddenly crashing. My internal engine has begun to whine fretfully at the pace. A friend and I were recently lamenting the fact that we’ve had our noses down to the grindstone for so long, we wouldn’t know fun if it walked up and bit us. Our attitudes to life and people were beginning to take a hit. Teary and testy by turns, it’s wise not to ignore the warning signs: it’s time to take a glorious, sanctified break.
Running through all of Scripture like a magnificent, refreshing river, is the concept of ‘Rest’. Built into the very fabric of the universe, ‘Sabbath’ is unspeakably profound. It is hallowed, and it is holy. Neglect it to your peril. The divine rhythm for life cannot be protractedly ignored without intensely damaging repercussions. We are repeatedly invited to enter into that Rest; a spiritual decision that requires immediate, pragmatic action. Hebrews 4:1-11 emphatically warns about the dangers of lost promises through hard-heartedness and unbelief; two manifestations of failure to rest in the times and places He has ordained. Ignorantly, you can burn out your own heart and desire. You can actually miss the promised land, if you despise the Rest. Rest resets our core apparatus. It’s a divine gift that, obediently yielded to, produces a place where fruitfulness paradoxically increases. Blessedly, there are gracious, almost unbearably miraculous words that come from Jesus. He looks down on our self-imposed, feverishly chaotic expectations and says
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matt 11:29-30 Message
Welcome to the open invitation of a life-style few of us have yet mastered. What might we really accomplish if we got into the rightful ‘unforced rhythms of grace’? It is possible to become a peaceful, invigorating sanctuary to those around us. There’s no lack of weariness everywhere, so being an energy-bringer could be explosive evangelism. There’s an unstoppable melody of sacred excitement going on that is far deeper than mere existence, so strip off the sackcloth of weariness, and get in the dance.