Complaints of any kind were vigorously discouraged in the home where I grew up. Notable exceptions were made for the adults in the family because they were the boss of us kids and could grumble about anything they well pleased. As for my sisters, my brother, and me, we were to share only happy thoughts.
When we arrived home, wilted from a day spent learning new things and avoiding the Mean Girls who humiliated hapless victims in the school’s hallways, we were to shake off the day’s disappointments at the back door and step into the kitchen with all the cheerfulness we could muster. Should we dare to appear the least bit demoralized or, Heaven forbid, audibly reveal our wounded little hearts, we would be met with a not-so-subtle reminder of how little we had to complain about and how lucky we were to have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.
In short, we were expertly trained to bear discomfort quietly and, as a result, I am ill equipped for self-pity.
It’s the kind of tired that sleeping doesn’t fix, an exhaustion that has wrapped itself around my head and my heart and distracts me. It robs me of enjoying the things I normally enjoy.
Seriously, I need some rest.
But, while some extra sleep and a change of scenery might be of some help, I think the fix needs to go deeper than that. I’ve had a rough year and it’s left me full of feelings that are hard to sort out. And, it’s making me feel tense and fearful.
My shoulders are tight and sore from carrying around such a heavy load.
I am determined to get a handle on this and get past it (remember my early training), so as a beginning of finding my way out, I created a list of the things that are making me feel so tired. Here’s what I came up with.
“I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed! Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.”
– J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
I hear you, Bilbo.
Recently, I have begun to exchange thoughts about this soul-sucking exhaustion with those who are close to me and have learned that it appears to be somewhat of an epidemic. I was talking with a friend who lost her spouse, retired from a long-term career, and moved to another city –all in the space of a couple of years. She shared that she doesn’t even know what she believes in anymore. That’s Exhaustion talking. I have another friend who is in that weird space between “middle-years-worker-bee” and “second-act-retiree”. Where excitement should prevail, she worries that she’ll appear flighty as she explores options for this next season of her life. What will others think if she doesn’t light on the perfect next act on the first try? Worries about failing to meet the expectations of others is robbing her of the joy of exploration. I’m guessing she’s tired of that.
And, I know there are many more out there who are tired too.
So, how do we get past it?
As always, it’s best to start with remembering that we are the children of the Living God.
He cares about us and lovingly commands us to bring our troubles to Him; set them right down in front of Him. I love that.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7
Jesus knows how tired we are of carrying things that we were never intended to tote. His life was hard and filled with burdens. He preached, and healed, and reasoned, and loved His way through His earthly ministry. He walked countless miles and saw enormous suffering. I’m pretty sure He knows what tired feels like.
Jesus invites us to shake off all the unrealistic expectations and misplaced burdens we carry; to trim our loads so we are carrying only the barest of necessities.
“Take My yoke upon you and 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.”
– Matthew 11:30
So, let’s do this.
Let’s refine the loads we carry so we can do the work He has called us to do; learn to be more discerning about which opportunities we should accept and which warrant a confident “No, thank you”. (If you haven’t started reading it yet, pick up a copy of The Best Yes and learn how to decide which “Yes” is the one that will keep you in God’s will and give you the most joy).
Let’s stop comparing ourselves to others and learn to appreciate the special qualities God has given each of us. Can we do that instead of trying to be someone we were never intended to be?
Let’s take a hard look at what we are carrying around and, like an experienced hiker, jettison anything we don’t need for the journey. Let’s give to God what we are not intended to carry and carry together what we aren’t meant to give away or leave behind.
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
– Galatians 6:2
Let’s pick up one another when we see a sister in trouble, offer encouragement and humor to those who are worn out by unwelcome change and difficult seasons. Can we learn to deliver kind words and comic relief with the same skill and enthusiasm that we deliver casseroles and baby clothes to new Mamas?
Let’s help one another to be happy with who we ARE and not what we think we SHOULD BE? That starts with being real and raw with one another.
Let’s stop taking ourselves so seriously that we can’t enjoy the blessings that are right in front of us. Can a sister get a good laugh when she needs it?
Let’s get better at letting go of our burdens; learning from the Israelites who continued to weigh each other down with burdens they had no business to impose on one another.
“He who said to them, ‘Here is rest, give rest to the weary,’ and ‘Here is repose,’ but they would not listen.”
– Isaiah 28-12
Let’s talk about this at the first FIRED UP! Conversation on March 27. Together, let’s lean in and find some answers.
It’s going to feel so good to lighten up.
I’m starting to feel better already.