That's the time my daughter has been waking up this week, thanks to daylight savings time. (Though it's not like 5:20 am was much better). My daughter has been up at 4:20 am, my son at 5:20 am and my husband and I start our parental duties before the coffee flows. And did I mention that they each had a stomach bug the last two weeks?
We are tired.
I adore articles and posts about rest, taking time to "be," listening to God, and seeking out green pastures, but sometimes you just can't hit pause--not when diapers need to be changed, trash taken out, kids put down for naps, the family fed and fed again, discipline dealt over the same issue for the bajillionth time and the housework completed (uh, started).
The other morning my husband took the kids for a few minutes so I could read out on the back porch. A spider was weaving her glistening web that she has most likely woven again day after day after day and I couldn't help but think I am just like that spider. I sympathized with her fortitude and hoped I could have an ounce of her dedication to her task (because of course she was a "she"), but I also assumed she starts her days with a sigh, thinking Didn't I already do this before?
The disciples understood bone-tired weariness. They went off in pairs doing ministry--staying at stranger's houses by night, healing the sick and teaching about Christ by day. When they reported back to Jesus, He promised them a quiet retreat with Him. Instead, they ended up in a crowd of thousands of hungry people. And Jesus took them past their limits:
"YOU give them something to eat," He said.
They must have looked at Jesus like He had two heads. The disciples were so spent--physically, emotionally and spiritually. Had Jesus dared to ask even MORE of them? Hadn't they just spent every second over the last weeks serving Him? They didn't even have any of their own food to offer, but had to scramble to find a few loaves and fish from a young boy.
When I had my second child last year, I felt I had reached my limits. I was up throughout the night to feed her and then had to serve my other child and husband the next day. As a mom, everyone wants a piece of you. I thought I couldn't do more, but then a diaper would need to be changed again, a doctor appointment made or a baby fed and I'd somehow plod along.
In that time, I searched for promises of rest in the Bible and instead found this: "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak" (Is. 40:29). Strength?
All this time I had been searching for rest, God had promised me strength instead.
Sometimes, God wants us to exceed our limits so that we come to the end of ourselves and the beginning of Him. Now, I'm not talking about being a workaholic or not having healthy boundaries, I'm talking about good old fashioned responsibility--all that you have to do in a day that you just can't get out of because someone will either die or be mortified for life if you don't do it. The disciples didn't need to go looking for new challenges to add to their lives, because simply walking closely with Jesus brought them past their limits on a regular basis. It is the same with us.
Last Saturday I met a couple begging on the streets--with a baby. All my heartstrings dragged me practically to my face and I had to hold back tears. My friends and I handed them a wad of cash within minutes of talking with them. That was the easy part. But I felt compelled to get their numbers and I have thought of them several times throughout the week. But, like the disciples, I've found myself thinking Jesus, what can I do? I already have my own family to feed and care for (and did I mention I'm exhausted?) Are you daring to ask even MORE of me?
YOU give them something to eat.
Writing this has been convicting, so I texted them a little while ago to meet up for lunch on Sunday. I have no idea what to do after that, but I have to trust that it is no coincidence that Jesus had me writing this and meditating on this passage this very week. But this is beyond my limits.
Jesus exceeds the time, monetary and physical limits we set for ourselves to take us beyond. And what do we find there? Past our limits?
I wish I could say I immediately find a bedrock of grace, strength and love. I wish I found kind words and compassion, but often what I find is how ugly, selfish, weak and sinful I am. Even tonight, I put my son to bed after a battle over which books we would read and which songs we would sing and I closed the door frustrated and angry, then guilty and saddened over my lack of patience. Sometimes, I let the weariness weigh me down as I complain that, like that spider, I will have to reweave the web all over again tomorrow.
But a friend once told me a story about a little boy who told his daddy he wanted to fast for the whole day. When his daddy got home from work, he asked the boy how the fasting went. Hanging his head, the boy told him that he only ended up fasting about 30 minutes before he got hungry and crept into the kitchen for a snack. With a huge smile on his face, his father embraced him in a huge bear hug and twirled him around. "Let's go out for dinner to celebrate!" he said.
Yes, God calls us beyond our limits, but He is not a slave driver. He is our Daddy and He is pleased with our small gifts of service. At certain times, He will bring us to the end of our energy, strength and motivation in order to hear us say, "But Daddy, I just CAN'T. I'm empty. How can you ask so much of me?"
He wants to fill us.
He wants to strengthen us.
He wants us to turn to Him and believe that He will enable us to do all He is calling us to do.
And then He grabs us up in the air, swings us around with delight and says, "Well done! I'm so proud of you!"
God is able to do exceedingly more than all we dare ask or think according to His power that is at work within us (Eph. 3:20-21). Maybe He wants you to stop begging for rest and start asking for strength? I think we'll be surprised by the miracles that come when God asks too much of us and we offer what we can in obedience.
In what ways has Jesus taken you beyond your limits? How has He enabled you to keep moving forward in spite of difficult tasks?
Linking up with Velvet Ashes and Words With Winter
Labels: parenthood, sleep, Spiritual Lessons