“Don’t focus on your fear of burnout; remember to stay open and receptive so that you are filled up with love and energy from God, and from that you can pour out onto everyone around you. Don’t withhold. If you feel yourself drying up, it is because you aren’t connecting with God as your Source as well as you could. Cultivate stillness and self-care so that you have ample time to reconnect to the Holy Spirit within, then turn outward and share the love!”
Best friends have a way of putting things, and this is the way mine put her encouragement to me as I started out last September’s homeschooling year. Don’t focus on a fear of burnout. Don’t withhold. Open, receive, connect, cultivate, share. In other words, trust.
This thing isn’t going to kill you. Instead, it will be a conduit of life.
It’s Not Fear, But it is Surrender
I can hardly remember last year’s September. The world has changed in 12 months, from the headlines to the nitty gritty dynamics of my family’s everyday life. But here, we’ve taken months to recuperate, months to get my head on straight and months to remember who I am, who we are, who God is. Here, we’re ready to begin another school year, and there is no fear of burnout. But let me tell you, there is a deep, deep act of surrender.
There is this tired wisdom that says, looking for the smooth path is folly. Looking for the way past these things, around these things, looking for a way to skip over these things – that way is not going to happen. Not if the goals you hold are really the goals, not if the desires you possess are really the desires.
What Do You Want?
Do you want wisdom? Gentleness? Strength? Courage? Intimate communion with God? Holiness? A right heart? A pure hand? Connectedness with your spouse and children? The fullness of the Spirit? What, is it depth of spirit that you’ve requested? Is it a sharpening of the intellect, a humility of heart, an overflowing cup of joy and mirth? An effective ministry? A saving of souls? Is it worship? Is it purpose? Is it life?
Any of these things and the way forward is not one of least resistance. The path forward is not qualified by a quick handing over of the hard things to the distraction waiting with eager, outstretched hands. It’s just not. There’s muck and mire and valleys in the shadow of death just as well as there are mountain top moments and moonrises to shake loose the glorious stars in your soul. What kind of a jewel are you? Of what kind of stuff are you made? Can you take the obscurity of your position, the anonymity of your profession, the dirty, broken bliss of your every day life and glory in it, revel in it, be patient with it, and learn to tame your temper and your tongue? Can you do the menial as beautifully as you do the glorious, can you learn to do them well? Can you make your life an offering?
Here’s what you choose:
It’s Death; It’s Life
Jesus offered a life abundant and we take him at his word – we take him at his word but interpret his word to mean something other than death, which is what he actually means. Death of desires, of self-sufficiency, of our high opinion of who we are and what we can do. Death unto life. Death unto him. We’d like him to mean a life where everything at least WORKS OUT toward some semblance of what we expect (with minimum inconvenience to our flesh), but no.
No. No, because he’s talking soul life. He’s offering soul life. It is a soul life that drips into actual life, sure, but still…it’s a soul life. You did ask for it, with all those desires, with all those prayers. You did ask for a life brimming with LIFE (and if you haven’t, you should), but it turns out that this kind of life is a life that happens when seeped in the fallout of sin and death, not one that brims with ease or balance or escape from all the hard things. This is not a ripple-less road. Instead, it’s a road on which he stands, beckoning to us with all the hope that a heart can possess, a hope braced in heaven but laced in the reality of this world.
Soul Life, Really
It is a hope for this moment, now; this relationship, now; this crisis, now; this heart of mine, now, in this actual, real life moment. We talk rescue, but it’s not that these things will stop being swords in our sides. This is a rescue of the soul, a rescue of the mind, a rescue of the heart. The relationship might still go. The crisis might still be endured. This moment isn’t going to poof into obscurity – we still have to live it. But there is rescue from the bondage of our own broken reactions, and our own poisoned responses, our own propensity toward defeat. In an instant all can be changed, but it’s a change inside of us before it can ever be a change outside, because Jesus is talking in terms of “I am able to do exceedingly abundantly more than you can ever ask or imagine” and in terms of “the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work inside of you” and in terms of “in this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world” and in terms of “I will never leave you; I will never forsake you, I will be with you until the end.”
Such promise comes with cost. Such comfort comes through pain. Such knowledge of the wildly, gloriously unbelievable love and oneness with the God who loves us thoroughly comes with a death to self on some level, on all levels, on the level of the soul.
Whoever will save his life will first lose it. Whoever will love will first lay his life down. Whoever will worship will first decrease in importance in his or her own eyes. Whoever will gain will first lose. Whoever will increase will first serve. Whoever will live will first die. Whoever will hold the victory will first lay bare the surrender.
What is it you want?
Resources that have been rocking my world:
This video by Christine Caine. (I don’t know the name of her talk. I’d title it “From Annointing to Appointing; or, In The Dark Room With God.”)
This book by A. W. Tozer. (In Pursuit of God, read free online.)
This book by Leonard Ravenhill. (Sodom Had No Bible – not at all a book about homosexuality – a book about the greatness of God and a call to respond to him in revival of our soul.)
This no-nonsense parenting article by Rachel Jankovic: Gel-Pen Faith. From the end: “I felt capable of being a mother, back before I was. God gave me more to handle than I could possibly handle on my own strength. I felt capable of keeping house. I’m sorry. I don’t know if I can stop laughing about that…” See, don’t you want to read it?)
So, it’s September! It’s the season for change. What will you do with it? What is it you want? What is it God wants of you?