This past weekend I was invited for a beach getaway with a few friends. It was blissful. I haven’t done something like that since before children…4 years at least. It was only one night, which is fine because in terms of childcare that seemed like all I could swing, but twenty-four hours of uninterrupted conversation and meals was a sensation I had nearly forgotten. It was healing in a way. Especially in the company of such wholesome and real people. I am so blessed to have fellowship with women that are as vulnerable and intelligent as they are crazy and hilarious. Was it all sunshine and roses? No. There were different personalities and different expectations which inevitably result in disappointments and compromises, but thankfully, love covers over a multitude of wrongs and I’m sure love covered over my share. I think we mutually felt grace and encouragement radiating in our little gathering, and much refreshment came from it.
In a big way that overnight at the beach revived me. The last few weeks left me with an accumulated feeling of being utterly burnt out; emotionally, spiritually, mentally. I was taking some little opportunities for myself: recreational reading, exercise, a small purchase. To some this may sound narcissistic, but the reality is that (especially as a mother) as you give and give, and pour yourself out for others, you eventually dry up. Everyone’s “empty” may come at a different point, but it comes. I’ve realized how important it is to take time for myself. Time to reflect and breathe.
It occurred to me that even Jesus did this. Several places in the gospels Jesus is said to have woken early or slipped away from the group to pray. He is the ultimate example of a human being who poured himself out constantly for others, and even this man who was fully God needed sometime to Himself. I recognize though, that Jesus spent His alone time being refilled by His Father.
Reviving that Withered Soul
I admit that prayer isn’t always my first thought, in fact, most of the time it’s not. But I know it is one of the best ways to find refreshment, and the only way that is readily available, without a babysitter, without money, without a shower, any time of day.
Last night I was reminded of this truth and the important healing and peace that prayer offers as I read a few pages of Cold Tangerines, by Shauna Niequist:
When I pray, something freaked-out and dazed inside me finds a place to lay down and rest. When I pray, I don’t feel so alone in the universe. I feel like there is a web, a finely-spun net, holding it all together, keeping it spinning. I feel powerless, and prayer reminds me that I may be powerless, but there is power, and the one who holds the power is good…Prayer heals all the muscles that I’ve been clenching for a long time, while I’m holding it together, gritting my teeth, waiting for impact. Prayer, like yoga, like singing, brings soft from hard, pliant from brittle, possible from impossible, warm from cold, breath from breathless. And no matter what gets you there, it is better to be there than not.
I related to this so much, and felt a little relieved that I wasn’t the only one. A weekend getaway restored a small part of me, but I think the bigger healing came from the small conversations about God, his work, our failures and dreams, and how all of that fits together in God’s sovereign plan. I was directed once again to fix my gaze upward and anchor myself in the One who orchestrates each moment. He is where long-term salubrity is found.
Watering the Dry Places
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka (weeping),
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
If I am on a roadtrip, I keep an eye on my fuel gauge and make plans to stop for gas at different intervals. I don’t wait until the tank is empty. I’m only going to make it across 5 states if I go from gas station to gas station to keep my car fueled. In the same way, my life is a road trip to heaven. More often than I’d like to admit, I run out of gas. I get stuck; empty and run down.
I want to set my heart on pilgrimage to my eternal destination, and I want to run the race well. The Psalmist describes the travelers of Psalm 84, as going “from strength to strength.” My spiritual life needs to look a lot more like my roadtrip strategy. I need to proactively seek opportunities to refuel my heart with the hope of God’s word. Instead of sputtering to a dead stop, I need to plan a route of continual sources of strengthening.
- Scripture Memory
- Hanging Bible verses in prominent places in my home
- Asking for prayer and accountability from trusted women
- Being purposeful in how I fill the empty space
- Praying continually
- Evaluating instead of Escaping circumstances that bring out my sin
- Trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit
- Positioning myself to learn from God’s written and spoken word (bible reading and preaching)
- Asking my husband for prayer in my weakness, instead of just complaining
Like my kids on a 14-hour drive, I get irritable and cranky that this life-journey sometimes feels like it’s taking a little too long, and has far too many hurdles. I need the renewal found in the discipline of seeking Jesus.