The other day, I poured a cup of rice milk into my teapot, heated it to a boil, and poured it over a bowl of instant oatmeal (a CORONA special).
Right away, I realized I’d made a mistake. The oatmeal flakes were drowned in a sea of white because I’d used double the milk that I was supposed to.
I hadn’t read the instructions beforehand. I just assumed I knew how much was needed, and poured in a full cup without thinking.
To make up for the mistake, I did something genius: I poured in a second packet of instant oatmeal. Then started eating.
About two-thirds of the way through the bowl, my gag reflex kicked in overtime.
I ate more than I’d planned, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t choke down the last of that cardboard (I mean oatmeal).
I’d simply made too much.
Have any of you felt that way the last 6 months? Simply overwhelmed because you agreed to doing too much?
It’s easy to say, “Yes,” to doing more things. It’s much harder to “read the label” and make sure we have all the ingredients necessary to pull it off without hurting ourselves (i.e. time and energy).
When we overcommit, we’re emotionally and physically stripped of margin, so that we have little left to give to those we love most (God, family, friends).
Still, even though I know this, I find myself addicted to doing things. If I’m not busy, something’s wrong. Right?
Well, after a particularly long period (6 months) of feeling like I was running on an eternal hamster wheel, I read Psalm 127 and just about fell into a blubbering heap.
Here’s what the first two verses say:
“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
I got that far and my jaw about dropped to the floor.
Because in all my doing, I had undone the very thing God willed for my life.
“for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
I kept laboring, rising early and going late to bed, working long hours, then being so keyed up I couldn’t sleep, and for what?
For my own success?
It left me hollow and joyless.
In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to fall into his arms and rest. Truly rest.
To give up absolutely everything just to take back the peace of knowing I was living in intimate communion with him. To be able to enjoy being with him without the pressure of needing to do anything.
This was what was so beautiful about the gift of the Sabbath. That God wanted to give his beloved rest, and to enjoy it with them.
In writing Eden, my newest novel based on Genesis 1-4, I was captivated by the fact that God physically spent the first Sabbath with Adam and Eve, who heard his very footsteps in Eden.
Can you imagine hearing God’s footsteps? And knowing he was coming to see you? Because he loved you and wanted to be in relationship with you?
The amazing thing is that is the same God we have fallen in love with. The God who dwells closer to us than anyone else – because he lives in us. The one who will never leave us. The one who will be there, weeping for our pain and celebrating our joys, until the day we die and he can welcome us home to himself.
Christ himself walked and talked, ate and slept, worked and sweated, wept and laughed, and called broken people “friend.”
He calls you friend. He calls me friend.
And what a wonderful gift that is.
The most precious gift in the world.
Precious Jesus, you are our treasure! Our reward in this life, and the next. Bless our labor, so that we can be free to enjoy our lives with you, and with others. Change our hearts by your spirit. Set us free from slavery to things like success and pride. Because when we are free to spend our time with you, you renew our strength and youth, and empower us to work well and do good in your name.
Pick a single hour sometime this week where you could be rushing around doing things, and instead, just sit outside and stare at nature. Resolve to do nothing but to bask in God’s presence. And let me know if you find it healing and life-giving.