I couldn’t remember the last time I had bent down to feel velvety meadow greens. California hadn’t seen rain like this in years, and honestly, I stopped believing it ever would. The hills were dressed in a festival of wildflowers; the trails lined with colors only Spring knows how to paint.
I looked upon the horizon, knowing what the coming weeks would look like: the rush of activities, the ups and the downs, and the days when the world would seem to take off without me. Manic frenzies. Depressive depths. Great successes. Utter failures. Over the tranquility of the rolling hills, I saw the storms of life brewing before my eyes. I knew full well what I had chosen to walk into: way more than I could lovingly, rightly handle.
With an overcommitted calendar pinned to my heart, I left the simple splendors of the neighborhood meadow for the chaos of self–inflicted pursuits. I traded the peace of Christ for pieces of myself—way more than I had available to give.
Oh, Lord, I sighed while turning back to my car, help me know when to walk away.
The Danger of Tunnel Vision
There’s something about the demands of motherhood that challenge the ambitious heart. When our abundant plans begin to steal away our ability to live and love abundantly in Christ, we find ourselves caught in a crossfire. Spread too thin, we run with a tunnel vision which refuses to see the miracle of the manna it’s collecting en route to the promised land. With our hearts dead-set on always doing more, we end up loving life less, jumping through the hoops of here-and-now just to get to the then-and-there.
The great danger of this sort of tunnel vision? God’s glory is rarely—if ever—the goal. Instead, we’re rushing to touch a glory all our own, that the affirmations of good works may be the delightful ends which justified the hasty means. We want the echos from our songs to ring loudly, forgetting that loveless service is always a mute tune.
It’s no wonder we break under the yoke of our “inner slave driver,” as author Elyse Fitzpatrick calls it. In her book, Good News for Weary Women, she writes:
“When we are driven by self-forgiveness, self-approval, and self-perfection, our faith will inevitably be poisoned by misery and guilt. We make lousy gods, and our quest to find okay-ness in our own eyes will always lead to difficulties in our relationships and unrest for our souls. We will never know peace or joy. We will find it impossible to love.”
Knowing When to Walk Away
Our insatiable appetites will always leave us starved when Christ is not the bread we’re feasting on. If our daily grind continuously tastes of joylessness and frustration, we must be willing to ask ourselves tough questions: Do we feel unable to do anything because we are trying to do everything? Does our best witness come from a lack of joy in our Christ, or a lack of self in our wills? Are we ready to take Jesus not only at His Word, but also at His rest?
Coming to recognize that ambitious pursuits have ripened sour fruits in our relationships, we must take courage to listen for the Lord. His gentle leading invites us away from overcommitted schedules and, more importantly, an overtightened clutch on anything other than Christ himself.
Rest for the People of God
“for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:10 ESV
In Hebrews 3 & 4, we find a theme woven in the text: rest for the people of God. Repeatedly we’re encouraged to not “harden our hearts” if we hear God’s voice (3:8, 3:15, 4:7), but to believe the good news by faith (3:12, 3:19, 4:3), obey the Lord, and thus enter into his rest (4:1, 4:3, 4:9–10, 4:11).
These verses are much more than an invitation to rest in the morning mercies of God here-and-now. They’re reminders of our best light in and at the end of the tunnel, one which stays the inner slave driver’s whip from our backs. In Christ, we can learn to walk away from the pressures of performance, and run toward the pleasures of His presence.
This rest for the people of God is found by believing Christ when he says, “It is finished” (John 19:30)—acknowledging our highest achievements are but specs on His rolled away stone. The gospel’s guarantee of heavenly rest gives both here-and-now & then-and-there respite; grace to touch the wildflowers, joy in the miracle of manna, and confident peace that somehow our humble less is His abundant more.