(B)urdened (U)nder (S)elf-imposed (Y)okes
I have a terrible time trying to rest. I know as a mom and wife, I have frequently filled my life up with so many tasks that I neglect to rest and take care of myself. There is always SO MUCH TO DO! I’ve realized, though, that I frequently push myself too hard to meet my self-imposed deadlines – and my family and I suffer as a result.
In the past year or so, I’ve began to learn my limits. Prior to that, my mindset about a full day of work and responsibilities was, “If I can see every task I have to do today, I can start checking them off and I won’t have to carry anything over to tomorrow. As long as I set my mind to accomplishing the list, I don’t need to rest, I’ll just plow through to get it done.”
This left me feeling tired and frustrated when – inevitably – I rarely accomplished everything on my list. Sometimes unexpected events would occur and would completely derail my plans – and my attitude. I think that’s for a couple of reasons:
1. God was teaching me that I needed to ask Him to prioritize my day then let Him determine what was worthy of my time and attention.
2. He wanted me to find BALANCE in life.
3. He knows that we mere mortals have limits, and when we push ourselves too far, too fast, and for too long, we can make ourselves sick. (I’m not super-woman, even though I imagine I play one on TV.)
**The following is a bit personal. If you’re a man, or talking about reproductive matters makes you squeamish, I suggest NOT reading the following paragraph. Otherwise, read on!**
If you’ve read my first post, you know I’ve had three miscarriages in a year and a half. After my second miscarriage, I had a few normal cycles, and then around the middle of September I started a period a week earlier than I should have. I bled for 9 consecutive weeks. We’re not talking spotting here, ladies. It was atrocious. I FINALLY stopped around Thanksgiving. It was so bad that I had to leave work twice during my first hour class and go to the doctor. The second time I had to leave work, I let my doctor admit me for observation. Prior to that, I’d been given two kinds of medicine that were supposed to stop it, but each Monday I bled heavily and it would be horrible until Thursday, normal on Friday and Saturday, and light on Sunday. Then the next Monday would come and it would start all over again. No joke. The second week it happened, I thought I was miscarrying again because we had had a month to try for another baby after the second miscarriage. If you’ve had a miscarriage, you know that you can bleed for more than a week before you pass the “products of conception.” So when all of a sudden, it seemed like I was hemorrhaging, it was absolutely horrible. I panicked. Thankfully, I wasn’t pregnant, I was just bleeding – a lot. One of the lowest moments during those nine weeks was when my doctor called me on the phone on Veteran’s day after I left a message that I was STILL bleeding (November 11th), and she said, “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” That took about a day to fully sink in before I called and asked for a referral to another physician. More on that at a later date, if the Lord allows.
** Feel free to read again… **
So throughout mid-September until Thanksgiving, I was teaching (or trying to) during the day, cooking meals on Wednesday nights for 60-75 children and adult workers, shopping for those meals on Monday or Tuesday, running errands on Saturdays, paying bills, doing laundry, and running my household. All the while I was overseeing the remodeling of two homes to put them up for sale. To say I was stressed and tired was a massive understatement. Each morning, I would wake up, drink my coffee in my chair. There I would pray and read my Word, all the while pleading with the Lord to help me order my day so that I could be as effective as possible, and not be completely shattered by the end of the day – physically and emotionally.
Listen, being the modern day “woman with the issue of blood” was exhausting – and unfortunately, it was an emotional roller coaster. At one point, around week 7 with no relief, I told my husband that if something didn’t change, I was going to request a hysterectomy – despite our great desire to have more children of our own. I was thirty years old at the time. Every day was a reminder that we were nowhere nearer getting pregnant, and that something, somewhere was very wrong with me.
As October turned into November, I was increasingly more and more exhausted. Weary was another great way to describe it. I felt like maybe I should take a leave of absence. However, every time I thought that, I would have the counter-thought, “Oh, you’re just having the attitude of ‘poor, pitiful me’ ” – something I have a hard time tolerating in anyone. Yet I kept getting more and more tired. I finally articulated it as, “You know when you’re just ‘done’ for the night? (For me it was around 8:00 at night – normally.) You’re too tired to care about doing anything else? That’s how I feel from the minute I wake up in the morning until I go to bed.” I wasn’t super happy, but I wasn’t depressed, either. I was just exhausted all the time.
Any teacher can tell you that a class that has something to do is a better behaved class. It’s part of the reason why substitutes can have a difficult time with the students – the subs may not have enough work to keep them occupied. I knew I was in trouble when I didn’t have the energy or desire to get up and teach my least well-behaved class. It took all I could do to get out of my chair and teach them their math lesson. I was dragging and no amount of Dr. Pepper could pick me up again. I kept hearing the words of my teaching mentor saying, “When you’ve got something personal going on in your life that is so distracting that you can’t perform your duties, you need to take a leave of absence.” It was something she’d said years before – and not even to me – but every time I prayed for wisdom on what to do and how to streamline my day to preserve my energy, I heard her voice on playback in my head.
Well, I did end up getting a referral for a specialist and a letter to take a leave of absence from my primary doctor. Besides maternity leave with my daughter, I’d never taken a leave – didn’t even know if I’d be allowed to take one without being pregnant. For all I knew, I could potentially lose my job earlier than intended. (I was already planning on quitting my job at the end of the school year, but I couldn’t financially afford to be let go prior to that.) That’s just part of where my mind was at anyway. Yet over and over, as I would call out to God in the morning and at other times, I would feel a nudge to take some time off work.
Sometimes when you ask the Lord to help you streamline your life, He tells you to REST. Be willing to. God knows your limits much better than you do.
So I took a month off work (all of December 2015) and it wasn’t the end of the world – or the premature end of my career, either. God blessed me with a wonderful substitute that kept things running smoothly in my absence, and even if they didn’t, he didn’t bother me with it. It’s amazing how God will send people into your life to help you in the worst of times. You just have to be humble and willing enough to let them help you.
The very day I got the letter from my doctor to take a leave of absence, the bleeding stopped. Honestly. It was part of the reason why I knew I had heard from the Lord correctly. After 63 days of bleeding, it was finally over. I was finished too. I came down with the flu and then a cold for three solid weeks. My mom took me Christmas shopping one day in mid-December, weeks after I had begun my leave. We were in the mall for about an hour, and when she asked where I wanted to go next as we walked out to the car, I told her I wanted to go home. I was so tired, so out of breath, I couldn’t keep shopping. Normally I tire her out! I was huffing and puffing walking to and from the car. Anemia will do that to you. It keeps oxygen from getting dispersed properly throughout your body via your blood. Despite labs being taken every two weeks or so through the 9 week process, no one ever told me exactly how bad I was. In fact, the doctor who told me she didn’t know what was wrong with me, in the same conversation, said to “take two iron pills a day” until I saw her in February. That was on November 11th! She also recommended taking two birth control pills every day for a week “until it stops.” At one point, I had taken 4 and and 3 pills a day to try to get it to stop. Talk about messing with your hormones! I was a mess.
At the beginning of my leave of absence, I came down with the flu, immediately followed by a three week cold. Even then, I didn’t realize how “sick” I was. I mean, just looking at me, I looked tired. Many of my students were alarmed and reached out to me when I took my leave because they hadn’t realized I had a problem. When I finally met with my specialist in St. Louis in January (feeling much better at that point), she told me that my doctors at home should have been weighing the benefits and risks of giving me a blood transfusion because I was so low on blood. When I heard that, I knew that was likely why I had gotten the flu and had a three week cold and no amount of medicine could make me get over it. I didn’t have enough blood pumping through me to make my body work properly! I’ve never been super fit, but I was huffing and puffing and sweating just walking from the car into the school building each day. It’s not exactly a trek! It explained why I was so exhausted, and no amount of rest seemed to make me better. I was so busy most of the time that I wasn’t getting adequate rest anyway.
I said all that to say this: I didn’t know how sick I was until I was better. God knew how sick I was the whole time. That’s why He told me to take a leave and rest. Nothing but rest could help me get over all my health problems.
No doubt Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” because He knew that in our own pursuits (and maybe even in our ignorance), we run ourselves ragged.
The Blue Letter Bible app I use says that “rest” from Matthew 11:28 comes from the Greek word “anapauo”, which means:
1. “To cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his strength”
2. “To give rest, refresh, to give one’s self rest, take rest”
3. “To keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation”
It amazes me that, as moms, we feel like we are constantly running around, always doing something productive, and forever busy. Yet Jesus wants us to get away and REST to recover, collect our strength, and refresh ourselves. Ever notice how when you have more tasks to complete than time to do them, you get louder and are more stressed and less patient? Maybe you don’t think so. What happens if you’re running late and your children (or spouse) are lagging behind, fumbling to get ready? What do you do? I have a tendency to shout, “HURRY UP, WE’RE GONNA BE LATE!!!” and “WHY AREN’T YOU READY YET?!?” In fact, one of the most gentle, loving moms I’ve ever met admitted to yelling at her kids to HURRY UP AND GET IN THE CAR before they went to church! We’ve all done it – and if you haven’t, you’re either lying or you’ve wanted to shout. 🙂 However, if we’re resting in Him, we go to Him to seek His wisdom for our day. When we spend some time in prayer and in the Word, we are able to keep quiet, calm, and patient, as the third definition of anapauo states.
Ok, I’m about to geek out on Greek here, so bear with me, please. *grin* Sometimes going back to the original Greek and Hebrew words the Bible was written in gives a deeper understanding of the message behind a verse or passage. I use the Blue Letter Bible app to do this, but I’ve also used a Strong’s Concordance too – it’s just a couple inches thick and not as portable as the app on my phone.
The coolest thing happened as I was doing a word study on Matthew 11:28-30, the whole foundation for “Breaking Busy.” I looked up the word “yoke” and I realized that the Greek word there, “zygos” means not only a yoke which signifies slavery or bondage, but it also means “a balance, [a] pair of scales.” (via BLB app)
So when Jesus is saying, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,” I think He’s saying, “Learn how to get your balance from Me.” He will give you wisdom to find the balance you need in life. He wants us to find rest for our souls! He wants us to be free from the nagging thoughts and the tremendous burdens we put on ourselves to be the “Best __(whatever)__ Ever.” They’re self-imposed yokes, and learning to say “No” to some things will provide us with balance to live a life that includes rest.
He said His yoke is “easy.” The Greek word there is “chrestos”, which means “fit for use, useful, virtuous, good”. It also means “manageable, mild, and pleasant” and not too harsh, not to sharp, not bitter. In other words, all the things I am if I’m not staying in tune with Jesus. His burden is pleasant, and as His people, we should not be perpetually stressed and under self-imposed burdens. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Neither are oppressive.
There are so many other things I could say about breaking the busy in your life and saying “No” to self-imposed burdens. That saying “Yes” to the Holy Spirit’s guidance about how to plan your days will leave you feeling much more balanced and satisfied – but I’ll leave you with the best advice ever,
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)
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