Tag Archives: Weariness

Journey’s End

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 (NIV)

I remember driving to northwest Iowa while I was still a young man to spend some time with my grandfather. He was well into his nineties, and living in a care facility. It was the last time I remember being with him. We walked the hallways together, me pushing him in his wheelchair. We sat at a table in the common room and had “coffee time.” We talked together, though it was obvious that dementia was beginning to set in. He would sharing a story with me and I would suddenly realize that he was addressing me as a stranger, an acquaintance. In the moment, I it was obvious he didn’t remember who I was. Nevertheless, he was still relatively sharp and was able to articulate his thoughts and feelings.

“I’m the only one left,” he said with sadness as he stared out the window. “Every one I knew is already gone.”

My grandfather was not known for his silence. The man could weave a tapestry of stories and talk non-stop for hours and he was happy to do so for any stranger who would listen. I’m not exaggerating. I have clear memories of tugging gently on his arm and trying to help free some poor, anonymous housewife in the baking goods aisle who was nodding vacantly as my grandfather regaled her with stories about his ice-box cookies that won a blue ribbon at the Plymouth County fair.

“The secret is getting the cookies sliced nice and thin, but they have to be evenly sliced. The best way to do that is….”

“Come on, Grandpa. We’ve got to check-out and get back home,” I’d say as I silently mouthed an “I’m sorry” to the gracious stranger.

I have many memories of feeling the non-verbal signals of impatience from family members and friends who were trapped in the torrent of grandpa’s stories.

On this final afternoon with him, however, I remember long periods of silence as we sat together. The shift in him was obvious to me. He was in the homestretch of his earthly journey.

He felt spent, and alone.

I drove home that evening meditating on many things. It was one of the first times I recall really observing the weariness of life in an elderly person whom I’d once known in the fullness of life’s vigor.

I was reminded of that afternoon as I read today’s final chapter of Ecclesiastes. The ancient Hebrew Sage concludes his treatise of wisdom by penning a poem that beautifully describes the weariness of life one experiences when the end of the earthly journey is a long, slow descent to dust.

“Remember the Creator in your youth,” the poem begins.

Remember the Creator before you find your life spent, and alone,” the poem ends.

The sage then reminds me of where his wise discourse began: this earthly journey is a fleeting fog, a flitting vapor, a transient mist.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about the reality that I’m not much younger than my grandfather was when I was born. I am in the same stage of life’s vigor that I remember in my earliest memories of my grandfather.

I began this journey through Ecclesiastes stating that the Sage’s theme was not about the futility of this earthly life, but really about what’s valuable in this earthly life. Here at the end of his dissertation, I still feel it. In fact, I feel it more acutely.

I am reminded by Wisdom to live my life backwards. I find myself prodded to begin each day, to live each day, to reflect on each day with the journey’s end in mind.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Hitting the Wall; Pressing On

photo by Josiah Mackenzie via Flickr

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

This past weekend I had the opportunity to hang out with some old friends from high school. They all ran together on the cross country team back in the day. Running was never my sport. I  tried it one year, but it wasn’t my thing. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from hanging out with runners. Once in a while, the guys would attempt a marathon. When they would talk about their experience with the marathon they would talk about “hitting the wall.” It’s the point at which they would fatigue mentally and physically to the point of wanting to give up. If they could gut it out and continue on they would get a surge of energy and  a dose of “runner’s high” to carry them on, but they often would hit the wall and bail out.

I’ll be honest. This morning as I read the words “Let us not become weary” my heart said, “Too late.” I am feeling weary. I am hitting the wall. Don’t worry; I am not weary to the point of giving up as Paul admonished, but I have come to realize along the way that there are certain stretches of the faith journey in which weariness sets in. It is inevitable. In a marathon, everyone hits the wall at some point.

It was in worship yesterday morning that I truly realized it. The tears started and wouldn’t stop. It was a good thing. It’s one of the things that worship is meant to accomplish. We need moments to pour it all out so that God has room to re-fill us. For me it is not one major thing burdening me but a host of little things that, en masse, have worn on me. It is what it is. I’ve been here before. I will be here again. When you run a marathon you’re going to hit the wall at different points along the way. You push through.

Today, as I start a new week, I am hitting the wall and pressing on.

Breaking Points and Places of Restoration

Lake Mug 2 Snapseed LRWhen [the members of the Corinthian synagogue] opposed and reviled him, in protest [Paul] shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6 (NRSV)

Wendy and I arrived home from the lake last night after a long weekend with friends. I tweeted yesterday that there are some weekends there that you just never want to end, and that’s truly the way I felt yesterday. I wasn’t ready to come home. Wendy and I have realized over time the same thing that my parents realized as they owned the place before us, that the lake is a place of soul restoration.

Our life journeys can wear us down at times. We get depleted. Our feet get dirty from walking through life’s muck. At some point, perhaps at many waypoints along the path, we reach a breaking point like Paul experienced in Corinth in today’s chapter. We can’t take any more of what life is throwing at us. We give up, give in and throw in the towel.

For Paul, showing love and kindness to those who reviled and hated him was wearying business. I think we all experience the breaking point from time to time when our spiritual, emotional, and mental reserves are tapped out. I get the feeling that the reason Jesus often stole away to a mountain side by Himself  was because He was driven by need to refresh His spiritual, emotional and mental batteries.

I’m reminded this morning that we all have breaking points. It’s part of the human journey. Jesus experienced it, Paul experienced it, I’m going to experience it too. The question isn’t “if” but “when.” Today, I’m grateful for places of restoration. I’m thankful for quiet and the encouragement of friends who recharge our soul batteries in ways that allow us to press on.

Strength and Peace in the Moment

source: tonythemisfit via Flickr
source: tonythemisfit via Flickr

“Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” Daniel 10:19 (NIV)

This morning as  I read today’s chapter, I was struck by Daniel’s response to the visions given him:

  • “I mourned three weeks”
  • “I ate no choice food; not meat or wine touched my lips”
  • “I used no lotions at all” (He apparently understood moisturizing)
  • “I had no strength left”
  • “My face turned deathly pale”
  • “I was helpless”
  • “…set me trembling on my hands and knees”
  • “I stood up trembling”
  • “I bowed with my face to the ground and was speechless”
  • “I am overcome with anguish”
  • “I feel very weak”
  • “My strength is gone”
  • “I can hardly breathe.”

Daniel’s response to being in the spiritual realm was one of physical exhaustion and he was troubled, not encouraged, by what he saw and experienced. He required strength and encouragement to carry on.

I am reminded this morning that spiritual matters are not always easy matters. Dealing with matters of Spirit is often physically and emotionally draining. The visions and dreams given to people are often unsettling and disturbing. Yet, there is a promise that God will never dish out more than we can handle. Daniel was given strength and peace in the moment he needed it, just enough to get him through.

Today, I am thankful for strength and peace given in the moments we desperately need them.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 23

Quiet conversation on the dock.

he leads me beside quiet waters….
Psalm 23:2b (NIV)

My friends and family know that life has been a little bit of crazy for Wendy and me this summer. Nothing bad, mind you. Thank God, we are well and the craziness has not been the result of tragedy or ill circumstance. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. Business for us has been the best it’s been since the recession began in 2008. New projects seem to pop up unexpectedly. Our little community theatre, where we both serve as board members, is producing some great shows, was recently awarded for an outstanding show, and has a silver anniversary celebration coming up for which we’re largely responsible. Our Playhouse has been buzzing with activity this summer which requires some unique work and stress of its own. We are are so blessed at the moment.

On the back door of our house is a mezuzah. If you don’t know to look for it, you might not notice it’s there. It’s a small box that, in the Jewish tradition, is fixed to the door post of your house to remind you of God’s message as you go in and out. Our mezuzah is ceramic, and I bought it in a little hole-in-the-wall shop off the narrow streets of Old Jerusalem in Israel. Inside the mezuzah are various verses from God’s Message. Along with the traditional verses, Wendy and I each picked out a few of our own to put in there when we hung it a few years back.

Calling Wendy from my hotel last night, she asked me if I remember the verses she picked to put in there. I did not. She reminded me that one of the verses says:

Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:10b (NIV)

With that we spent a few minutes counting and naming our blessings and uttering a quick prayer of thanks. Our crazy summer is not the result of bad things but good things. We are scrambling to keep up with our blessings, and we don’t want to take that for granted. Things can turn on a dime. We are so grateful.

Today’s chapter are the familiar lyrics of the 23rd Psalm. I know them well. In fact, as I slogged down to the hotel lobby, still half-asleep, to fill my travel mug with coffee I began mulling over the words in my mind from memory. I came to “he leads me beside quiet waters” and immediately my heart was on the dock at the lake as the sun rises behind the trees at the back of the cove. The quiet waters of the lake have always been a place of peace for me. The gentle lull of the waves are the conduit for God’s spiritually restorative powers.

I’m feeling weary this morning and I’m appreciatively taking refuge in God’s promise to lead me to restful places beside quiet waters. In 48 hours, God willing, I’ll be on that dock as Wendy and I entertain good friends at the lake this weekend. Until then, I’ll seek my rest in God’s presence and promises.