“Our lives are unique stones in the mosaic of human existence – priceless and irreplaceable.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
Today I have to admit that I’m tired … a bone-weary, overwhelming exhaustion that doesn’t get better with a cup of coffee, a walk in the fresh air or a break on the couch.[[In-content Ad]]
Today I want to stop thinking, and writing, and worrying, and planning. I don’t want to open mail, reply to messages or answer the phone. I simply want to rest, to be alone and to breathe deeply and freely.
There are times like today when I am unfocused, cranky, and struggling to write, and I have to acknowledge the emotional and mental fatigue that is plaguing my spirit and my body, because if I don’t acknowledge it, I can’t overcome it.
I am not alone. Most of us have experienced this kind of fatigue at some point, or maybe many points, in our lives. What experience has taught me is that we often feel guilty about our need to rest from the frantic pace we live, and we deny ourselves the one thing we need most – self-care. In resting we feel embarrassingly unproductive, having lost sight of the fact that rest is among the most productive of states.
We only need look at the example of Jesus. He knew what it was like to be bone-weary, exhausted, spent, done for the night and maybe the next day. When we come to him in our weariness, he is not going to give us a sermon about pushing through for God. He’s going to remind us of what he told the Apostles when they returned from the mission Jesus had sent them on, two by two: “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
Jesus knew the value of such rest because he had entered into it many times on his journey.
The Apostle John tells of Jesus’ arrival in “a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.”
Noon was a time when few people came to the well because of the heat, and the disciples were off getting supplies. Jesus had some time to be alone and rest, before encountering the Samaritan woman and giving us all an opportunity to drink of Living Waters.
Matthew tells us when Jesus heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded, “he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” Jesus knew that grief and anger can be debilitating if we don’t give ourselves time to process it.
For Jesus, such time away was all the more necessary because of the great demands on him because of his love for the people. Matthew continues, “The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.”
Jesus instinctively knew that in order to live our mission in the world, we must engage in self-care, which for many of us means rest and time alone to refocus on our path. He continues to teach us that we are, as Father Henri Nouwen describes “unique stones in the mosaic of human existence -- priceless and irreplaceable.”
We have a mission to fulfill, a passion put in our hearts by God, but we can’t fulfill it if we are burned out.
So, after going away by myself and getting some rest, I embarked on writing this column, because when the Samaritan woman needed a drink of living water, Jesus didn’t’ say, “Not now, I’m exhausted.”
Mary Morrell is the former managing editor of The Monitor and an award-winning writer, editor and educator working at Wellspring Communications. She can be reached at mary[email protected], and read at her blog, “God Talk and Tea.”