She buzzes around the house with looping lists of tasks in her head. She self talks all day long.
Don’t get stressed. Don’t get stressed. Don’t get stressed.
This vitamin bottle on his nightstand is okay.
This scuff on the wall is fine.
We live here.
This task can wait.
The constant chatter in her mind that she continues to bat down is exhausting.
I’m not playing with him the right way.
I’m working too much.
I’m not doing a good enough job with his character.
I’m not praying enough.
She wonders if everyone feels the shame pile up on their shoulders like this.
She reads time management books and constantly chisels away the edges of her time block calendar system.
Maybe if I keep making my systems better, the mental exhaustion will go away.
I whisper to her, “It will not. Joy is not found where you are looking. Peace is not in that chore chart. Or in that project.
“Come to me.”
I attended seven funerals in 2020. Some of which were for people I personally knew, and some I attended because of my job at a church.
My husband talks often about the brevity of life. He had four close family members die in a short span of time, so his family knows that life can be radically changed in an instant.
The fear of death surrounded all of us in 2020 as an unknown disease affected every single person on the globe.
This year has me thinking about my own mortality more than I ever have. My parents are aging. My body is aging. My two boys are growing taller in front of my eyes.
What is this whole life even for?
A funeral service is meant to be a place to grieve the loss and celebrate life. A picture slideshow of faded wedding photos and babies and family reunions. A nervous family member at the microphone to share funny memories and legacy lessons.
This is all meaningful.
And then it’s over.
An entire life boiled down to a one-hour service. Everyone goes home. Close family will keep grieving for a while longer. Acquaintances may not think of that person often again. One generation away won’t remember that life. A very select few of us know our great-grandparents.
The family will then go through the deceased’s earthly belongings. A lifetime of stuff and memories and knickknacks will be picked over. Some of it will be saved. And much of it will be thrown away or donated to strangers. The home will be sold and turned over to the next family.
What is this whole life even for?
She is too busy to invite that difficult friend to lunch.
She controls her environment obsessively.
I’m feeling anxious; I’ll vacuum the floors.
I feel ashamed; I’ll finish a house project.
I am trapped by comparison; I’ll reorganize my closet.
I don’t have much to do today; I must be doing something wrong.
I breathe to her, “This isn’t the way.”
I tend toward exhaustion in my to-do lists. I forget about the people I’m supposed to love and the Lord I’m supposed to follow.
I am in the sweetest season of my adult life. I am remarried to a godly, loving man. We have a warm home, a sweet son, and a brand new baby boy. I am so very happy. And yet, discontent can still creep in. Feeling overwhelmed is never far out of reach. If we look, there is always something to be anxious about.
The scriptures warn us of this. We are warned that we won’t find contentment in our circumstances. He says to take up our yoke and follow him.
But what does that look like? Even the most intentional life is often mundane and redundant.
We still have to pick the clothes up off the floor and push the chairs in at the table. Are those tasks irrelevant to his kingdom?
What does a life well-lived look like?
Two of the services I attended were for elderly women. One I knew personally, one that was the grandmother of a friend.
They both were surrounded by godly children and grandchildren. As well as brothers and sisters in the faith that affirmed, “This woman pointed me to Jesus.”
I left these services comparing their life to my own. What will it look like for me to end the race well? To be a faithful wife, mother, friend, and church member?
God calls us to live for that which is eternal. And yet, we are spinning day by day on this broken earth.
A phrase that often comes to my mind is from 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “Lead a quiet life, and work with your hands.”
I am called to grow my children up as disciples. At the same time, my bathrooms do in fact need to be cleaned.
How do we cut the noise and focus on what is eternal? While simultaneously making peace with the things in this world that are not eternal?
As I sat listening to the stories told about the two elderly women, I wondered what they thought of their lives on a daily basis. Their legacies were clear and beautiful at the end, but did they feel like they were making a large impact as they were changing a baby’s diaper in the night, or asking their son to pick legos up off the floor? Maybe they handed out bulletins at church, or taught a Sunday school class to squiggly, barely listening preschoolers, and wondered if they were doing enough for the kingdom.
I groan and stretch under the weight of these questions daily. I am often plagued with guilt that I’m making the wrong choices.
God has been faithful to begin to pry my hands open from my anxious toil. He is pressing the truths of his grace, and sabbath rest on my heart. He is not content to let me strive for holiness with my lists and tasks.
Charles Spurgeon once preached on the passage about the mustard seed being like the kingdom of God. He said,
“He took it; that is to say, picked it out from the bulk. It was only one grain, and a grain of a very insignificant seed; but he did not let it lie on the shelf; he took it in his hand to put it to its proper use. A grain of mustard seed is too small a thing for public exhibition; the man who takes it in his hand is almost the only one who spies it out. It was only a grain of mustard seed, but the man set it before his own mind as a distinct object to be dealt with. He was not sowing mustard over broad acres, but he was sowing ‘a grain of mustard seed’ in his garden.”
He has put us on earth to tend the individual garden that he gives us.
We can find rest in our creator who knows our frame and the parts of our existence that are seemingly meaningless.
He will use our ordinary days.
His kingdom will grow.
He will save the lost.
He will return someday.
I’m learning to humbly rest in that and lay it all at his feet as an offering.
Cover image by Mayron Oliveira.