My dad is a story teller. His fish are big, his journeys are long, and they are always uphill.
There is one story I vividly remember him telling me as a girl. I have no idea if this is an original or true story – I just know it made an impression.
His story started with him being a lad on the farm with a chore to complete. (I am sure he used the word “lad!”) His dad gave him a metal bucket to fill with water from the drudge ditch and bring to the big barn. It was a warm afternoon and as he carried the bucket he was enjoying the walk through the golden fields under the blue cloud filled sky. To his dismay, when he arrived at the barn the once full bucket was empty. He set out to try again aiming to please his father. He went faster the second time around, but the pail still did not hold the water from the ditch to the barn…since it had a hole in the bottom. Trying to get his chore done he tried many solutions: running, patching the hole with mud, and a few more that slip my mind. (My dad is a better story teller than I.)
I recently thought of this story during a visit to a guest house in January. It had been a long, hard, but very good semester. Honestly, I think we could safely say the hardest semester we have had living overseas. But, I also wouldn’t be lying if I said that I have learned more in this hard season than in the previous 10 years as an expat. Maybe some day I will be able to tell the story of this semester, but for now you can just imagine me as a lad on a farm running hard trying to get my work done.
My natural reaction to a hard season…work harder, try harder, run faster. The thing is, a bucket with a hole in it won’t carry water no matter how fast you run or how hard you try.
When I took time to slow down, reflect and get real with Jesus – well, the crazy thing is – I think rest is what He wanted to give me. I don’t think He wants me to try harder or work faster. I think He would be pleased if I simply would ABIDE.
I am not good at abiding.
In general, I am not a disciplined person. But when it comes to the spiritual disciplines, this is the one I am worst at. I blame it on being a perfectionist. I rationalize it away by saying that hard work is good for the soul. I have small children how can I rest? What will others say when they find out I had to take a break?
Really, it is pride. All excuses that keep me from making space to abide.
We took a much needed break. Some very generous souls took over my responsibilities for several weeks to give us a rest and to allow us to attend a training conference. I sat on the beach. I went to bed early. The dear folks who run the guest house for “workers” like us did our laundry, cooked all our meals and just gave us space to rest. We made memories as a family and I read some great books (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta and In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J. M. Nouwen. Both so very good. Read them. You won’t regret it.) We took space to prepare for the next season, got more training, and fell on our faces before our Creator.
Through it all, I felt a still small voice in my heart asking me to abide – to stop trying harder and just trust Him.
I needed it.
We are now back home and starting a new semester. Not just any old semester, but one that holds many demands, high stakes and a new baby (to us) as well.
Isn’t God so good to give me the generous gift of a break right before another busy season?
As we start classes again, put together a toddler bed, dive back into our homeschool books, soak beans for dinner, and pack for an adoption trip….I keep coming back to the idea that I don’t need to try harder.
We leave to go get our new son in one week…maybe two. Ekkk! (Did you read that little adoption update in this long, ranting, personal growth blog post?! We also have a name for our new sweet guy. Call me. I will tell you! A hint: his middle name is after that story telling grandfather.) With a new little one on his way, life isn’t going to slow down any. I need to slow down my soul. I am taking deep breaths. Going to bed earlier. Reading a few phrases of my book. Smiling. Walking. Trusting.
I am on a new slower journey. Tell me how you abide. I could use some tips!