I have a bad habit of pushing myself to the absolute max. For most of my life, my default answer has been “Yes” and my default custom has been to stay up too late, wake up too early, do too much, and rest too little. I know I’m not alone and books are being written and we’re all talking about how we need to slow down, and you are right there with me with days too full, nights too short, eyelids too heavy, and schedules bursting at the seams with too much of everything.
I push hard knowing that coffee and eye liner will be there for me in the morning. I push hard because I feel like I’m supposed to for my children, for God, for community. There is a time to push. We need each other — and let’s be honest — if we never pushed, we wouldn’t see each other much. And yet, I also know the truth that we were made for rest…pure and simple and free of agenda. I know that our bodies were made for sleep, and we were made to believe that the world keeps spinning if we stop for moments in the day, and seven or eight hours at night. As much as I resist, somewhere deep down, I believe that our need for rest and sleep is a God-given daily source of humility, a life-line to remind us that He’s God and we’re not.
I’m sometimes inclined to think that my opposition to sleep is a result of being a grown-up with responsibilities, but than I see even the tiniest people resist it. Every mama knows the maddening vexation of watching an exhausted child scream or wiggle with “I’m not tired!”. How many times have we seen another question, another book, another kiss, another blanket, another song, another back scratch, another drink, another trip to the potty, another anything to restrain from being overtaken by relaxation? One of mine will hold an arm in the air or bounce a leg off the side of the bed for minutes on end, unyielding to the calm. Another child of mine often says she just “can’t” close her eyes – doesn’t know how.
How many times have all the moms said “Just go to sleep!”?
There was the boy on the road trip the other week, who said sleep was impossible, leaving me simultaneously frustrated by his noncompliance and struck with the truth of what he said… because he was absolutely right. There is no amount of obedience or work or doing that could render sleep. It cannot be forced or rushed or demanded.
It is pure, unbridled surrender. It does not come unless we let go.
Sleep can’t go on your To Do list, because you can’t do it. You have to let it undo you.
Perhaps that’s why it is sometimes so hard for my little man of passion and action and concrete solutions, and why I can’t seem to get myself into bed on time, either.
How curious that sleep never seems like a good idea until it’s too late and we’re left with our heavy bones and sticky eyelids. And how curious that the same is true of all the things that require our surrender.
Because it’s hard to be told what to do, but it’s even harder to know that there is nothing we can do but “let go.” I think surrender and letting ourselves be undone might just be the hardest thing. Waving the white flag feels like defeat in the most miserable of ways. I think we will always avoid surrender unless we believe there is a greater victory on the other side.
We say “No” to one more thing for the greater “yes” of being refreshed and having new life breathed into our bones. We say “No” to doing all in our own strength for the greater “Yes” to Christ through whom we can do all things.
I’m so painfully aware that all the things I might be inclined to do, to say, to write…that they will be empty unless I simply abide. Jesus says that apart from him, we can do nothing. We, the branches, can bear no fruit apart from the vine. All the things with which I could worry myself to no end… All the things that keep me up at night… All the things I tell my sweet ones I need to finish before I’m ready to play or snuggle or read or get the snack… there is no lasting fruit apart from Christ.
But abiding in Christ, remaining in him, waiting on him…it requires the deepest and fullest surrender. As sleep requires our physical surrender, so abiding requires our soul surrender. We surrender our swarming thoughts, our burgeoning need for productivity and efficiency and impact. We surrender our agenda, our pride, our worry, our control.
As sleep refreshes our bodies, so stepping into quiet submission to the King of Heaven has the power to refresh and recharge our souls and spirits, the power to change our perspective on our day. God has the power to change the lens through which we see the circumstances of our day.
If you’ve had to stop reading this post a couple times to wipe spit up off your shoulder, take someone potty, break up an argument, or race to chauffeur your people to the next thing, I am so with you. If you have to rally three or four people to do your job as mama in order to get away for a couple hours or days, I am so with you. If you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, and it feels like your home and everyone in it would crumble if you let yourself breathe, I am so with you. If you have an incessant list of things running through your head about the medicine you need to remember to give, the food you need to remember to pack, the babysitters you need to remember to find, the ride for your child you need to request, the diaper rash that needs a better cream, the meal plan you haven’t made, the errand you are procrastinating because you remember the chaos of last time, the behavior or ailment that you wonder if you should be concerned about, the sport or class you worry you should be signing your child up for…I am so with you.
But when I sat on a plane with my daughter yesterday afternoon, after a weekend away with sweet friends, and the stewardess reminded me to put my oxygen mask on first, my spirit said “Yes, ma’am and amen.” I have nothing to give without a source. I must believe that yielding to the Spirit of God in the middle of the unyielding pace of my day is the only way for my life to yield enduring fruit.
Yield… this is the word that has me tied up in knots and spreading my wings. This is the word I think might just be the answer to everything our souls need and our spirits cry out for today.
Yield | yēld | verb
1. to produce, provide, deliver
2. to relinquish, surrender, relent
How tremendously lovely and rich and mysterious that the same word means both surrender and productivity, both to admit defeat and to deliver results, both achievement and relinquishing control. How beautifully ironic and perfect.
As we lose our lives, we find them. As we yield ourselves, we yield beauty in our lives.
Whether or not you can get a good night’s sleep tonight, you can choose to yield to the Spirit of God in the midst of your crazy day. You can yield to the belief that drawing away with God is the one decision that yields the most fruit.
Today, I’m not going to resist the moments of my day that make me feel small. I’m surrendering my pride and laying my life down a million times over, in faith that God will give me His.
Today, even as I work, on laundry and food prep and shepherding and emails, I’m choosing to relinquish my hyper efficiency and drive for productivity, in faith that the Spirit of God will enter into my openness and deliver moments of beauty and grace. I am letting go of the unrelenting push, and choosing to be interruptible. ”For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8: 35)