There are some men and women who have lived forty or fifty years in the world and have had scarcely one hour’s discourse with their hearts all the while.
I cannot encourage you enough to read the book Wholeheartedness by Chuck DeGroat. It’s one of the most insightful books I’ve read in a long time on why so many of us suffer from exhaustion.
The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness. David Whyte
It’s unbelievable how heavy burdens can become when we stuff our emotions and desires into another part of our lives that others cannot see; when we try to handle these burdens on our own, they become like a heavy bag that we drag behind. I didn’t really understand until recently how divided my life has become – how my mind flip flops between the fears of the future and the failures of the past, and my feelings and desires get lost in the shuffle. What has resulted is exhaustion and a yearning for relief.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I realized reading Wholeheartedness this morning how desperately I’ve been trying to find relief on my own. Somewhere along the way I’ve stitched up fig leaves on my own and they haven’t been sufficient in covering my shame. Somewhere in the shadows of the past I’ve hidden who I really am.
Where am I ? Dr. Degroat encourages his readers to ask themselves, after some relaxation techniques.
Allowing myself to slow down and do this exercise I can almost see and hear God’s footsteps making a path through the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day. He knows exactly where Adam and Eve are. He knows they’ve disobeyed Him, but He calls out to them still, “Where are you?”
As I asked myself this question, memories of times gone past flashed into my mind. Drinking a glass of wine at the home of my abusive pastor. Sitting in a meeting with another pastor sharing with him about secrets that I’d kept for way too long. I was totally vulnerable with both of these men, and they let me down in a big way. I also let myself down in an even bigger way expecting them to be what God never intended them to be – those who could help me in the way that only He could.
I’d grown impatient with God’s work in my life, with the excruciating pain my past had caused. I wanted these men to make it all better, give me some relief, but they could not. All they were created to do was point me to the Only One Who could make it all better, and to listen and share some my load to make it easier for me to carry. But placing my hope in their solutions, I made my load more than I could bear.
Ever since that time I’ve tried to be self-sufficient, going through the motions of my days, keeping the house clean, everyone fed and delivered to where they need to be on time; maybe if I do and say all the right things I can keep myself from being harmed again – but this, too has resulted in a heavy load.
Going through this exercise and asking myself where I am has given me a surprising answer. I have seen that the real me is still sitting on that sofa drinking wine and pouring out all my hopes and dreams to a man who enjoyed being my god. A man who gave me relief over and over again by causing me to think that what I did with him would be enough to fulfill the desires of my heart. The real me is still that secretary sitting behind my desk telling my next pastor about all I’d done wrong, desperately longing for his acceptance to take away all of my shame.
But both of these men fell miserably short. Sharing my heart with them resulted in a huge disappointment, so much so that I built a wall around my heart declaring I’d be in control from here on out about who and what I let get through. And it’s been very lonely.
But thank God that Jesus hasn’t stopped knocking. And I’ve cracked the door a smidgen at times, letting Him come in and give me snippets of truth and freedom, but usually closing the door again when anything has happened to cause me to fear I’m in danger again.
But today as I went through the exercises in this book, I’ve been given a picture of where I lost myself along the way and what I can do to find myself again.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.
Revelation 3:20 AMP
Jesus knows exactly where I am. He knows I disobeyed, but He calls out to me still. Where are you? He sees how broken and afraid and ashamed I am. He knows exactly what I need to fill my heart with life giving water, so I’ll never thirst again. He promises that His perfect love casts out all fear. And I can hear Him knocking.
My heart will not let me deny His call. I’m tired of living in self-protection exhausting myself trying to do it all right. So I leave my idols in the shadows and get up and go to the door.
The aroma of fresh baked bread comes drifting through. A glass of wine in a fine crystal goblet twinkles in the candlelite. He has prepared a table for me. As I step into His presence, I realize my my dirty clothes have been traded in for a glistening white wedding dress. He invites me to sit at His table, feast on His body that was broken for me, be filled with the knowledge of how much He loves me.
He pulls out the chair for me to sit down and sits down across from me. His piercing eyes cut into the depths of my soul. “What do you want?” He asks with a gentle smile and a soft soothing voice. My mind flashes back to the things I thought I wanted, but had wrecked my heart. “Not those things, Lord.” I admit tempted to look away from His gaze, but so mesmerized by His beauty that I cannot look away. He offers me a piece of bread.
Remember, He says. And I eat.
He gestures for me to drink from the glass of wine.
Remember, He says again, and I drink.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:32 ESV
His body broken and His blood shed on the cross for me is the guarantee that He isn’t holding my past sins against me. He doesn’t even remember them anymore, but He knows that I get lost in their shameful memories and He calls me to Remember.
Remember that every time God looks at me He sees Jesus.
Remember that He knows every hair on my head, calls me the apple of His eye, and greatly values my soul.
Remember that He created me for His good pleasure and He promises good gifts that will thrill my heart and His.
Remember that nothing on this earth can give me the eternal hope that I long for.
Remember that the desires of my heart are what He gave me, and He promises to deliver.
Remember what He started He always finishes.
Remember I can do nothing without Him.
Remember with Him all things are possible.
Remember to ask without doubting.
Remember that even when I am faithless, He is faithful.
Remember each time I forget.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
It is my prayer that as you read this, that you remember, too.