Like most people who work in ministry, I’m not super great at “self-care”. There are days when I chase high schoolers into and around our building for so long that I forget to eat lunch. There are days that I nap in my parked car with Hailey because I’m exhausted from work and don’t want to risk waking her from her afternoon nap by transferring her into her crib. There have been days where I have been going-going-going from 7 am to 10 pm and have forgotten to drink water– a stupid idea when you live in Denver, at altitude.
The outcome of this hair-brained, busy lifestyle? Absolute exhaustion.
Please don’t get me wrong or think that I’m complaining here because I’m not. I LOVE caring for people. Chasing my hot-mess high schoolers around, caring for baby Hay, making meals for my friends, and having mass gatherings in my home are some of my favorite things. God reveals so much of His beauty to me in those chaotic moments.
But when I don’t pause to take a breath, a drink, or have a snack, I eventually crumble.
By then, I’m usually too tired to eat or drink and I usually just lay on my bed and fall asleep, only to wake up even more hungry or thirsty. It’s a self perpetuating cycle and if I was stupid enough to allow it to continue on forever, it would literally kill me.
My spiritual life is no different.
In the chaos of being the hands and feet of Jesus– of begging high school students to do their homework and driving them to youth group, of putting tiny shoes back on a rambunctious 1-year-old for the umpteenth time that day, and making yummy snacks for Gospel community– it is easy for me to forget to spend time with the One that I am working so hard for.
And over time, even if that time is only a few days, if I don’t drink from the Living Water, I eventually become dehydrated.
Last night, I laid in bed after one-heck-of-a-day at work and simply stared at my Bible and the glass of water sitting next to each other on my floor.
Physically and spiritually dehydrated from my own time-management issues, I contemplated downing the whole glass of water and staying up to finish reading the last two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. But instead, even though I knew that I needed the life that both of those items provided, I simply rolled over and shut my eyes.
As I laid there, the story of the lame man in John 5: 1-9 ran through my head:
“After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids– blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.”
Lord, I feel like I need someone to throw me into the Water. I’m literally too tired and dehydrated to even get up and walk, I prayed as I dozed off.
This morning I woke up still dehydrated in both senses. And just an hour into my work day, I had a few of my students absolutely unleash on me, essentially telling me where I ‘could go’ and how I could ‘get there’, if you get my drift…
After those conversations came to an end, I sat in my empty classroom and stared at the Bible next to my computer, letting my thoughts get the best of me. I need someone to throw me into the Water. I don’t really even feel like doing it myself right now. As I stared at my Bible and examined my own stubborn heart, tears of exhaustion and grief from how my week was already shaping up splashed against the inside of my glasses.
A few moments later, the history teacher burst through my classroom door, disrupting my zoned out state, with a Bible in hand.
“Here. This is what I’m talking about in chapel today,” he said as he flopped it open and nodded to the highlighted chunk in the middle of the page. “It looks like you could use it a little early.”
As I read the words in the yellow box, I laughed involuntarily and blurted out, “Shut up, Fuller!”
“No, seriously. That’s what I’m doing for chapel today! Crazy, huh? God knows…”
As he laughed and walked out of my classroom, I started getting choked up again. (#typical) My eyes read over the words I had convinced myself that I had committed to memory years ago, but clearly I still have some work to do…
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
All week long (Yes, it is only Tuesday, but OH MAN does it feel like it should be Friday) I have sat next to the pool filled with Living Water like the man in John 5– I was a dehydrated mess, refusing to drink until I was too weak to get myself up and lower myself into the pool to be refreshed by His goodness.
I’ve carried my Bible in my purse like I always do. I’ve taken it out and put it on my bed, on my floor, on my desk, and in my lap, but I haven’t opened it.
I don’t have any good reason or excuse except simply to say that I was dehydrated and that is entirely on me. I didn’t take the time to read or spend time with God the way that I knew I needed to. I didn’t run to Him in prayer when the proverbial “ish” hit the fan and I almost tackled a student yesterday trying to protect one of my co-workers. I was too proud and exhausted and knowingly unworthy to come to my Father and ask for help, and in doing so, I allowed my problems to grow bigger and more difficult for me to manage– I allowed myself to shrivel up and become dry.
But thankfully, God is a God who cares about my tiny prayers just as much as He cares about my “big” ones.
Through Fuller coming in and “throwing me into the pool” by handing me an open Bible, open to the exact thing that I needed to read at that exact moment, I found refreshment for my soul and an answer to the prayer that I had been praying since last night.
Was this life giving moment meant to be the thing that completely re-hydrated my soul? No, of course not.
But it was the catalyst to me spending my entire lunch hour doing the very thing that I love the most– spending time with Jesus.
Do I still suck at taking care of myself and currently have a dehydration headache from still not drinking enough water? Why, yes. Yes, I do. But I know that this is something that God is working on within me, both metaphorically and literally.
Are you weary? Burdened? Exhausted? Dehydrated?
Come and taste that the Lord is Good; see that He keeps His promises, His promises to love you well forever regardless of whether you are bright and shiny or dry, cracked, and cranky.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.”