Running on Empty
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 28:30
This week has been one of those weeks you don’t want to repeat. It seemed as though one problem stacked against another problem forming an impermeable wall of stress and despair.
As I type these words, I think to myself, "What a cliché topic." I get tired of it, quite frankly, but my feelings about it doesn’t make it go away.
I ran from one appointment to another trying to wear all of the hats of a disciple of Christ, a wife, a mother, and a full time employee. On Thursday night, my husband sensed my stress level was on the edge of crazy. He gently said, “I want you to leave work early tomorrow, go home, and spend some quiet time with the Lord before you have to pick the kids up from school.”
I was thankful my husband was in tune with me and could see I was at the point of needing this respite. I am one of those people that will work herself into oblivion and who needs someone to say, "Stop." If I am not accomplishing, guilt begins to set in--not healthy, by the way.
The next day I did just as he said other than staying an hour longer at work than we agreed upon. Oops. But I came home, read the Word, prayed and had a talk with God while I did laundry, cleaned, and adorned my home with fall décor.
But still. I felt like I was running on empty. Emptiness begets anxiety. Anxiety begets hopelessness. You can't give to others when you are empty.
Later, I was in my car, alone, and a radio personality was talking about how busy she had been. She talked about being stressed and run down from her to do list. “I feel you girl. I'm listening,” I thought as I let her words settle in my heart. She referenced the second commandment in Mark 12:30, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
She went on to say how the Holy Spirit had revealed to her she wasn’t loving herself by running herself ragged. He gently reminded her to take care of herself.
I was reminded of the old “put on your own oxygen mask before someone else’s while on an airplane” story, I've used it a lot over the years while counseling others.
Yet, there I sat gasping for air, like the fish, Bob, we used to have when he was dropped in the sink drain. (He survived, but that's another story for another day).
So many times we are worried about putting on too many other people’s oxygen masks while not realizing our own starvation.
Our pastor is currently doing a Wednesday night series on “Breathe.” I made it to the first Wednesday night sermon. I had planned to make it to the second one; however, I got stuck at work with a technology issue needing to be resolved that night or we would be able to run the next morning.
Yet again, I missed a chance to “breathe.” The irony almost makes me laugh.
I started to think of how dry I had began to feel. I’ve been reading the Bible, but not leaving feeling fully refreshed. I had been praying, but during the middle of my prayers, I would find my thoughts wandering to something I needed to do or something I had forgotten to do.
The more I try and do the drier and more brittle I become. I was reminded of the story of Ezekiel. The spirit of the Lord came upon Ezekiel and sat him down in a valley of dry bones.
If we could see with complete spiritual eyes, I wonder how many dry bones we would see around us? Frail bones of people saying yes to too many things, damaged bones from lack of rest, broken bones from overexertion in the wrong areas.
Ezekiel sits amongst these dry bones and God asks him if they are live. Ezekiel basically answers with, “Lord, you know they’re not.”
The story continues.
Ezekiel 5-6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”
7-8 I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.” (The Message)
Do you ever feel that way? Like bones and flesh walking around with the breath knocked out of you by the gut punches of this life? Hope seems lost. You're just going through the motions. Just like in the story of Ezekiel, your bones feel buried until a stack of bills, tasks and obligations. And then you feel guilty for having these ungodly, human flawed thoughts, because that’s not how “good Christians” think?
I find myself there at times.
But the key is to not stay in the place of dryness and darkness. The key is to call it out and confess it with our tongues. The key is to keep drinking from God’s Word, praising Him even if our mouths feels parched, seeking His kingdom above all else. The key is to remember, God is the only One who can breathe life back into our tired and weary bones.
We have to slow down long enough to linger in His presence of His living water and ask him to refresh us, renew us, and call our dry bones to life. He is willing. He is able.
As the song goes, “He calls out to dry bones, come alive, come alive. He calls out to dead hearts, come alive, come alive. Up out of the ashes let us see an army rise, He calls out to dry bones, come alive.”
Father, thank you for breathing your breath of life into me. Thank you for calling my dry bones up out of the mire and placing my feet on higher ground. Thank you for promising to never leave nor forsake me. Thank you for correcting me when my priorities get out of line with your good and perfect will. Thank you for carrying my burdens and giving me hope. I ask that I am able to rest in your peace. I place my life in your hands. Have your way with my soul, oh Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.