Other than our recent weekend trip to Fairhope (you can find a recap of our weekend here), my life has not really felt very blog-worthy lately. Jeff and I are both working long hours and then coming home to mounds of laundry and long to-do lists and a toddler who never stops moving. We are TIRED.
The tired I’m talking about is so much more than not getting enough sleep (although that’s an issue right now, too, because Jack suddenly thinks that 1:00 a.m. is a good time to wake up screaming EVERY night). My tired is more of a mental and emotional thing. My job stresses me out and my students need so much every second of the day that by the time the final bell rings at 3:15, I am completely emotionally and mentally spent. Then there are papers to grade, emails to respond to, paperwork to complete, professional development assignments…the list goes on and on. By the time I leave work every afternoon, I feel like I have nothing left to give anyone (which is frustrating for me because Jeff and Jack should get my best and not my grouchy, irritated, exhausted, and emotional self). Then I go home and Jeff and I tackle whatever needs to be done at the house and try to spend quality time with each other and with Jack (and exercise and eat right and keep up with the news and what’s going on with friends and family and EVERYTHING else).
I reached a breaking point on Saturday last week. Early Saturday morning, my work email app on my phone buzzed and a rude email from a mad parent popped up. When I read it, I could feel myself filling with anger. Then, that anger faded into frustration and led me to an entire weekend filled with negative feelings. By Monday morning when my alarm went off, the last thing I wanted to do was go to work. I felt unappreciated, disrespected, and completely defeated.
Then I read this quote from Elizabeth Elliot on a friend’s Facebook page: “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”
I already knew that I couldn’t change my circumstances. Even if I could change them, I would still face challenges and difficult situations. Any job is going to come with those things, and there’s no way to avoid them. Instead, what I need to do is take my focus off of my circumstances and put it on Christ.
Let me tell you, this is a really hard thing to do.
Jesus is not going to jump around and yell, “Look at me!” all day, but Satan will make sure that your circumstances do. Deadlines, emails, meetings, negative comments from coworkers, unrealistic expectations, and stress are all masquerading around as important things that should take precedence over everything else. Learning to take a step back from all the stressful things, breathe for a minute, focus on God first, and then conquer that to-do list is a discipline that I have yet to perfect. It’s hard.
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (KJV)
I love the way the way The Message words these verses: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out in religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I love that phrase, “I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” God is teaching me so much about resting in Him in this busy and stressful season. When Jeff and I went on our trip to Fairhope a few weeks ago, we did that to get away and get some rest. While our trip was a wonderful escape and a great time to spend time one-on-one and reconnect (which I believe is absolutely necessary to maintain a happy and healthy marriage, especially once you have kids), it was just a temporary escape from the things that are weighing us down. Even while we were there, we were both getting emails, texts, and phone calls from work. A vacation or a good night’s sleep, both of which are good and necessary things, is not enough to bring rest to our souls. The only way we can get that “real rest” is to allow God to refresh our souls by spending time with Him.
I’m still a work in progress, and I often let my circumstances distract me or weigh me down, but I am trying to slow down and focus on God first. Here are a few things I’ve done this week to help shift my focus and change my perspective so I can get that “real rest” with God:
- I deleted my work email from my phone. I will focus on work while I am at work, but I will not let negative thoughts, feelings, or comments from others (which are often shared or sparked by an email) affect me during my family time.
- I turned off notifications on all my social media apps. While I enjoy seeing updates from friends and family on Facebook and Instagram, I also tend to get stuck in a comparison trap and want to compare my circumstances to what I see online. I turned off my notifications and am trying to spend less time on these apps and more time focused on time with God or my family.
- I downloaded the Church of the Highlands podcast onto my phone. I don’t attend Church of the Highlands (Jeff and I have visited there a few times and have enjoyed the services, but felt more at home in a smaller congregation), but I do find the teachings and preaching to be in line with God’s Word and am thankful that they offer their weekly messages in an online format through a podcast. I have been listening to a sermon on the way to work every morning and it has made a big difference in my attitude over the last few days. Also, guess what the title of the most recent sermon was when I downloaded the app…A REAL REST. (Do you think God might be trying to teach me something?)
What do you do when your circumstances feel overwhelming? How do you put your focus back on God? How do you make rest a priority in today’s busy world? Let me know in the comments!