Winter sun poured through my dining room window, warming the table onto which I slumped. A hot tear or two slid down my cheek, but only one or two because a full cry required more energy than I could muster.
I just can’t do this anymore, I thought. I can’t keep up! I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m so tired. And sad. And tired of being sad. God, help me! What could I possibly be getting so wrong that I feel like this?
Somewhere along the way, I’d fallen into a lifestyle of personal responsibility, which is good in some areas, but less so in others. Mine was in the vintage of a “God helps those who help themselves” mindset. The running conversation in my head went something like this: “I’ll take care of the stuff I can take care of and I’ll let you know when I need your help, God. Wouldn’t want to bother you with anything frivolous or unimportant!”
So, the laundry? My thing. As was juggling the family’s schedule, keeping everyone moderately happy, refereeing the arguments, managing the money, reading the books, cultivating everyone’s faith, cooking the meals, washing the bathroom, combing my hair, keeping up my marriage, and providing everyone’s education. The list goes on, but I’m sure you know it because I’m guessing it’s basically your list, too, in one form or another.
I’ve long been aware that the “help themselves” theology isn’t actually found anywhere in the Bible. This isn’t a perspective I actively chose to embrace. But it had crept in so surreptitiously that I didn’t realize it had taken hold until every day was marked by weariness and discouragement.
Sometimes when I ask these existential questions, there’s no answer. Most of the time, actually. Sometimes there’s an answer that appears gradually and over time. And other times, the answer is sudden and surprises me with its clarity, just like the answer was to this January afternoon lament.
“Heidi, you only come to me with the big stuff, with the totally tired stuff, with the end-of-your-rope stuff. If it’s ‘little’ and you think you can do it, you do, and without giving me a second thought. That’s why you’re here, exhausted and dry and in this predicament, you know.
“You have to bring it all to me. The little stuff, too. The stuff you think you can do on your own. The stuff that you hardly have to think about in order to accomplish. All of it. When you do the little stuff in your own strength, you’re using yourself up! That’s not what I intended.
“I don’t think you’re a bother. The supper, the laundry, the paying the bills, the sweeping crumbs under the table for the hundredth time…it’s not a bother to me. Bring it all to me. I’ll lighten your load.”
I wouldn’t say every problem is a spiritual problem, and I most certainly wouldn’t say things like depression and anxiety can be prayed away. But I would say we exist in several planes–the physical, the emotional, the relational, as well as spiritual–and our problems can exist across several planes simultaneously. I find I often overlook the spiritual plane for those that are more tangible.
I wish I could say that when this answer appeared, relief flooded over me and I’ve been living in peace and bliss since that moment. Instead, I’ve been chewing on this for a month now. Working out my salvation, I suppose. How does this actually happen, bringing it all? How do I cultivate the discipline it takes to stop relying solely on what’s tangible and what I can control and, rather, lean into the spiritual instead? How do I live with a happy heart independent of my circumstances? How do I learn to view my life differently, so I see all the planes and dwell in their fullness?
In her gem, The Quotidian Mysteries, Kathleen Norris brings it full-circle: “It is a quotidian mystery that dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation…It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is ‘renewed in the morning’ (ps 90:5), or to put it in more personal and theological terms, ‘our inner nature is being renewed every day (2 Cor 4:16).” (10, 22)
It is through the dailiness, through learning to bring it all, that I will find the renewal I so desperately crave.
Maybe you’re like me and you’re tired, too. Maybe you have a lot of balls in the air and not enough arms in which to catch them. Maybe you know things shouldn’t feel so heavy and difficult, but they do anyway. Let’s hold hands and find the path out together. I know I could use some company on the journey.