CHOOSING THE RIGHT WEARINESS
Part of good rhythm, in every season, is the right weariness.
Let me explain. In Isaiah 53, God accuses His own people this way: “You have not wearied yourselves from me, O Israel.” The context is God’s invitation to Israel to love and serve Him, the one who created them, rescued them, provides for them.
But they won’t listen. They won’t come. They want their own way. God has put them at the heart of His concern, yet they have put God on the periphery of theirs. So they are busy with many things. With idols. With vanities. With complaints. With sins. They are so busy with these things that they have grown weary in them and of them. Indeed, they have wearied God with it all. (Isaiah 43:24)
But they’ve not wearied themselves for God.
They’ve poured themselves that have poured nothing back, and they are empty and spent as a consequence. The one pouring out that would refill and replenish them as they did it — a passionate pursuit of God — they spurn. They are not making themselves weary for the only One who can refresh them in their weariness.
Life is inherently wearing. Seasons are inherently unbalanced. The sooner we accept this, the less disappointed we’ll be. We’re just better off to abandon the false hope that, with enough money and time, we’ll arrive at some ideal state of existence, a place unscathed by burdens and pressures and disappointments and trials. That place is heaven, and no amount of Jerry-rigging the borders of this fallen earth will conjure it here. The real order of business while earthbound is to choose, in season or out, what to weary ourselves with, whom we weary ourselves for. It’s not to decide what part of our lives will be lopsided. The direction of our tilt. If our lives are always skewed toward something, out of kilter in some way, then let’s make the most of it and skew them towards light.
Like the season of raising young children. I’ve been around the world, speaking to groups large and small on the theme of Sabbath rest. Almost always, in the question time, I’m asked this: “How does anyone practice Sabbath when they have young children?”
Matthew 18 is what I usually answer. There, Jesus’ followers bicker over the credentials for kingdom greatness, Jesus has a little child among them. And He says three things about that child: the kingdom belongs to this child and those like her, we must become like her to enter the kingdom, and we’ll never see the kingdom — we’ll suffer a grim fate — if we do anything to hurt her, or any child, for that matter.
That’s a lot of kingdom tied up in the life of one child.
I usually ask the speaker his or her name.
“Hi, Gary. Your wife’s name?”
“Gary, I take it that you and Lisa are in the season of raising young children.”
“Get any sleep?”
“How many children do you have?”
What are their ages?”
“Nine, seven, there — almost four — and eight months.”
“Oh! Girls? Boys?”
“The oldest and the youngest are girls. The two middle ones, boys.”
“What are there names?”
“The nine-year-old is Daphne. The two boys, Braedon and Byron. The baby, Madeline.”
Speaking their names, Gary’s voice thickens with emotion.
“You love them a lot, don’t you?”
Gary nods, too overcome to speak.
“It’s just as Jesus would have it, Gary: that your heart is wide open and quickly stirred by just the names of your own children in your mouth.” It’s here I bring up Matthew 18, I say, “How amazing, Gary. Little Madeline — can’t talk, can’t walk, just starting to sit up, starting to crawl — the kingdom belongs to her. She has ready access to kingdom life. She lives under the rule and reign of God, without hesitation, default, pretense, avoidance. Without even thinking about it. Your primary task right now, yours and Lisa’s, is to receive the kingdom through her, and to imitate her in living under God’s rule and reign — for that to be so second nature, you do it without even thinking about it — and to make sure you and no one else causes her to stumble. Gary, the kingdom is in your midst. It’s there with Madeline. It’s there with Byron and Braedon and Daphne. Be where they are, and the kingdom is near.
“And isn’t that, at least in part, what Sabbath rest is?”
Such living calls for a glorious lopsidedness. It calls for choosing the right weariness.
What season of life are you in? What season of the heart? Where, in the convergence of the two, does the kingdom swing closest. Lean there. Weary yourself on that. When your young and in spring, do something dangerous. When your children are young, regardless of your heart’s season, be with them. When you’re fifty-ish, sixty-ish, and moving into fall, say yes to every young person who wants your time. When you’re old and in winter, be like Jacob in his dosage: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21). Worship all that’s in you, and even if it takes your last breath, speak blessing on the next generation.
You’re going to be tired one way or another. May as well be good and tired.
Life is about pursuits, and something always has to give. “Run, ” Paul says, “in such a way to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Chase what matters.
Often our pursuits are trivial. They might masquerade as great dreams, but it’s by their fruit that you will know them. We gain things that perish only to lose things meant to endure, things we were to guard with all our hearts: we get a big house, but estranged children; we win the applause of strangers, and lose our friends; we acquire wealth and status, but grow cold toward God; we acquire much and spend much, but give little and — really — get little. The Bible tells us to seek the Lord. It tells us to seek peace and pursue it. It tells us to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We can know all this, and even do it, but lose our way along the way and end up chasing things we’ll never catch or, if we do, wish we hadn’t.
But here’s what I keep trying to say: it’s impossible to pursue anything without forsaking other things. It’s impossible to live in the grip of pursuit or managed in some balanced way. By their very nature, grand pursuits demand sacrifice. They require that we live gloriously lopsided. Magnificently obsessed. The pursuit may change season to season. (And here I speak of the seasons of life — raising children — but it applies equally to the seasons of the heart.) Or the particular way of engaging a pursuit may shift from season to season. (I have many times preached the Word “out of season, ” but nonetheless preached it — maybe with more urgency, or less, more fire in the bones, or the sentence of death in my heart. But woe to me if I do not preach.)
But I can’t say that I’ve ever had balance. The only times I’ve come near are when I have forsaken my pursuit, and this I don’t recommend. There have been times, in my case, when I have been waylaid or wayward: pulled by distractions so hypnotic I wandered in a dark wood, or maiden with apathy so thick every desire lay muffled beneath it, or wracked with disappointment so jagged it made everything inside me ache. I got unbalanced in such times anyhow, but the tilt was askew — toward self-indulgence, self-pity, self-protection, some self-thing. Excess marked me out, only I exceeded at that which, mostly, I should have shunned or, at least, done by halves.
My whole life has been an exercise in lopsidedness.
I’m guessing yours has, too. It’s just the nature of the thing, and there’s no helping it. What we can help is whether our lives are gloriously lopsided, tilting toward the light, in the pursuit of Jesus through hill and dale.
My friend Brian Doerksen wrote a song during one of the darkest times of his life, after he lost nearly everything. It is called “Now Is The Time To Worship, ” and it became a worldwide anthem. Brian wrote it as a declaration, a resolve: now, right now, here and now, in the midst of loss and confusion and humiliation and anger — now is the time to worship. Now is the time to press into the hope of the kingdom. The situation wasn’t about finding balance. It was about finding rhythm to negotiate and sustain a cockeyed, headlong swerve toward the light.
I recommend we abandon the dream of balance. Maybe you can attain balance fleetingly, in Zenlike moments of personal bliss, but generally the kingdom of God permits us no such inner quietude and windless poise. The kingdom of God since the days of John the Baptist, Jesus said, has been forcefully advancing, and forceful people, violent people — unbalanced men and women, I take that to mean — lay hold of it.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God.
In season and out.
~ Darren’s Comments ~
Spiritual rhythm or personal balance with God? Why can it be both? Let me explain. Your heart (soul) goes through rhythms — you can liken it to the seasons of the year as you can see with my own life, especially through my deepest darkest winter when I was eighteen (Running With Christ. . .). Or my incredible summer of the heart that lasted for four years up until I was eighteen where I mistook the Lord’s calling and was actively pursuing a youth pastoralship. Maybe you, too, are going through a spring, summer, fall or winter in your spiritual life? It is ever more important to keep balance with God through all seasons of your spiritual life, which for now is co-mingled with your physical life.
Through the wiles and the goodness that this life has to offer us *in which this book has been incredibly helpful navigating the seasons of spiritual life *, that’s where you need spiritual rhythm; however, you need personal balance with God to make sure you’re on track with God through the good, bad, and ugly times (2 Corinthians 13:5-8). You have to keep a sense of personal balance with God to go throughout the spiritual seasons of life down here on earth in order to have an uninterupted rhythm.
Now, it is not until recently that the passage concerning Matthew 18 made sense to me, while it should have made sense to me way back when I said that prayer of dedication back in the rehabilitation hospital when and shortly after I turned eighteen. We have to let go of control of our lives in order to see the kingdom. We have to become like children who’s biggest concern is which friends will I play with today. Little Madeline — can’t talk, can’t walk, just starting to sit up, starting to crawl — the kingdom belongs to her. She has ready access to the kingdom life. The key to kingdom life is to be totally helpless before God, and that is where humility comes in to play, one of God’s most cherished attributes. To them that have an ear, let them hear (Matthew 13:36-43).
In order to have that uninterrupted rhythm, you have to make correct choices. And this physical life is made up of choices — some good, some bad, some excellent, and some disastrous choices. You have the choice to decide. Make sure your choice is to ultimately give and grow in Jesus Christ who, according to 1 Peter 2:21 is set for us (True Life Christians) an example that needs to be followed. Each of our lives is not like the other, though we can find similarities between us and other people. However, our task is to choose the right weariness and glorious lopsidedness.
~ Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger ~