I never intended to take a break, but I don’t think it was an accident.
Yet, here we are, in a brand-new year, and I’m finally sitting down to put thoughts on the page. The weeks have been full of holiday happening and work busyness, but empty of much writing. However, there were gifts that I want you to have, too.
Many of us are well-acquainted with urgency, pressure, and deadlines. They pull us in a thousand directions at once until we are stretched so tight and thin we feel like we’ll snap. Yet, how much of it is self-assigned? Gift #1 is the opportunity to evaluate. January is a beginning and the perfect time to adjust for the months to come. Of course, life requires much of us. Rent needs to be paid and kids must be fed regularly. But, if we’re honest, what items did we boldly write on our to-do list because we think we should do them? What stressors have we unnecessarily added?
The first week of December flew by, and I panicked when I missed my deadline to write to you. Then I remembered that I was the one who decided to post weekly, and that you would be very understanding if I took a little time to shift my focus. This caused me to look at the other things that hovered like a cloud over my head, demanding attention and showering down guilt until I completed them. That guilt is so heavy, isn’t it?
Which brings me to Gift #2: we do not have to do it all. If you were waiting for permission, here it is. Again, there are some non-negotiables, but you are not single-handedly responsible for maintaining the operations of the world. Yes, you laughed and rolled your eyes at that because of course that’s an exaggerated idea and you’d never dream of assuming such a demanding job. Though, come to think of it, as we try to balance everything, we keep taking just one more thing out of God’s hands and grasping it in our own. Let’s give it back to Him and ask how He’d like us to participate.
As the days of December rolled along, I kept grabbing things from God that I thought I should (there’s that word again) be handling. A lot is happening at work, and surely I must give all effort there. Oh, and the holidays! Gift-giving and event-attending and house-decorating and cookie-baking and…. Surely I must savor the season fully. And then there’s the book I’m writing and all the business that comes along with author-ing. The more I tried to do, the less I trusted that God had much of it under control.
That’s a realization that can stop a disciple in their tracks.
Meanwhile, I began to understand that I’ve given too much power to guilt. Where did it come from? A closer examination reveals that it seems to be a combo of societal messaging, comparison to others, and our own imaginations. Ok, we can deal with that.
Gift #3 is a good one. Imagine what happens when we unload our armful of gathered shoulds, assumed have-tos, or even that pesky-but-unnecessary guilt, and pile them at the feet of Jesus. In return, we are free to live the abundant life He gives! When we postpone pressures that we’ve assigned to ourselves or abandon assignments that never needed to be on our shoulders, we have time for truly important things. For me, I was able to enjoy Advent with study and reflection while lighting candles on a wreath. Christmas gifting became personal and deliberate, an act of care that also involved time with loved ones. I mean, after all these years of scrambling to fulfill a shopping list, I finally realized that small, thoughtful gifts accompanied by a cup of coffee or a heartfelt, unrushed conversation are treasures.
When these three gifts are collected, they form Gift #4: rest. Jesus offers, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
He’s not demanding us to strive until exhaustion. Instead, He gives us a life full of His goodness and the opportunity to participate in the adventure of His kingdom work.
Life is not a race, and there are no trophies for accomplishing the most or doing them the quickest. Success is not measured by dollars earned or a list of achievements. It’s found in living out the love of God, following Him closely, and pursuing the purpose He designed for each of us.
Luke 10:38-42 puts the spotlight on two sisters who had different approaches to hosting their friend, Jesus. One sister expressed her love through hospitality, the other by spending quality time with Christ. When the busy sister grew exasperated, possibly overwhelmed at working alone, she hoped that Jesus would influence her sister to pitch in! However, Jesus shifted her perspective by pointing out that many worrisome things were unnecessary. Instead, time with the Lord- the Messiah, the Savior, their dear friend- was what mattered most.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
Letting go of our shoulds and unnecessary urgencies is scary. It feels like we’re not in control and that everything will fall apart. But we aren’t releasing them into the wind and watching them disappear on the horizon. Instead, we place them in the capable hands of the One who’s truly in control, who is good, and who loves us so compassionately. He gives the best gifts, doesn’t He?
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