Fifteen Pounds in a Five Pound Sack

Ask me how I’m doing or how I’ve been and, nine time out of ten, my only answer is busy.

Busy.

I am always busy.

Want to have coffee? Let me check my schedule. How about the third Wednesday of February between 4:15 and 4:45? O….no? Doesn’t work for you? Let me check March.

Between my two jobs; my husband’s crazy hours at his new job; four teenagers who need to be shuttled back and forth to three different schools, work, and friends’ houses; cooking and cleaning and errands; the two classes I’m enrolled in; writing; and church- I simply have no extra time. None.

I keep myself going, at least in part, fueled by the delusion that this season of my life will be temporary. I won’t have to run like this forever, it’ll only be until ___________. Until I get out of the restaurant industry (2005). Until I finish college (2009). Until I leave Hawaii with its insane cost of living (2010).  Until the girls are done homeschooling (2015). Until I pay off that credit card bill (who knows!?!) Until the weekend. Until summer, or Christmas vacation, or Spring Break.

Turns out that regardless of life’s circumstances, I pretty much always feel overwhelmed and frazzled, with far too much to do and far too little time or energy to accomplish half of it. As my stepdad Cliff used to put it, I’m a master of trying to fit 15 pounds in a five pound sack. And it has left me so tired. I am bone deep, foot dragging, soul-killing weary.

When (O dear Lord, when!) do I ever get to rest?

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling,                                                                                      ~Isaiah 30:15, ESV

Notice that little snippet in Isaiah 30:15? Four little words. “But you were unwilling.” God wanted the Israelites to rest. God told them to chill out, take a breather, I will save you, I will rescue you but they were unwilling.

Well, that’s not my problem, I could retort. O my land, I’d love a rest, I am so very willing! I just can’t take one right now. There is nothing I can let go of. I can’t quit tutoring because we need the money and my clients need me. How could they pass their tests without me? I can’t quit my primary job for the same reasons. I’m currently the main bread winner in our house, plus 100 GED students’ lives pivot on whether or not they can pass their tests. There’s no neglecting my husband and my kids, they are my primary responsibility. The house has got to stay in some semblance of order or I’ll lose my mind. My daily quiet time and weekly church attendance are also two of the strongest threads in my tenuous grip on sanity. Not giving those up. I am fairly certain that swim class is required at this stage in my life- between the diabetes scare, my joint issues, and my life long struggle with weight, I need to maintain this discipline of regular exercise. As for my writing class, the blog, and the book, how could I give that up? I know you have called me to write. How many times have you confirmed that in the past year?

I have a handful of reasons why every single task on my to-do list is absolutely vital.

So did the Israelites.

They had to run. Seriously, ya’ll, there was no time to rest. The Assyrians who were stronger and fiercer than them were attacking! The Isrealites needed help and quickly. They needed a powerful ally. Naturally, they went running to the best, most powerful ally they could come up with….Egypt.

Hear that? They could have rested and had almighty God- the creator of the heavens and the earth; the all-knowing, all-powerful LORD; the Alpha and the Omega; their gracious loving father- handle their enemies. He longed to do so. Instead, they went running to the world, Egypt, to rescue them.

God does not give them an out. He doesn’t say, “O, the Assyrians are coming? Well that’s a big deal. Run now, we’ll rest later.” No, rather in the next two verses, we see where the Isrealites attempt to rescue themselves led them.

and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”;
    therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
    therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
    at the threat of five you shall flee,
till you are left
    like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
    like a signal on a hill.                                                                     ~Isaiah 30:16-17, ESV

Forever running, the enemies faster than them. Always just a step ahead of the big, bad world. No safety, no rest, stuck in never ending cycle of fleeing and pursuit. Left alone on a hill, vulnerable to everything. O man, can I ever relate.

What is God longing to do for me that I am looking to my own strength and the world to help me with? More and more lately, I am being convicted that there is something I have to let go. Four possibilities come to mind. The housework and the cooking. God has blessed with with four smart, capable teenage daughters. Perhaps, I could turn over the lion’s share of household duties to them? Honestly, that’s a battle that tires me just thinking about it. The second job. I could just quit. Give my notice and trust that God is going to provide the $800 grocery money per month and that he will send other tutors into my students lives who can help them accomplish their goals. The grocery shopping. Right now we spend hours each week grocery shopping. It consumes the majority of my Saturday, going to store after store armed with five separate lists in an attempt to be as wise as possible shopping for a family of six with the limited resources we have. My creative writing class. Maybe now is not the time to worry about honing my craft, no matter how much I enjoy it?

So this week I’ll be praying. Lord, what do you want me to give up? What should I drop? What things are Egypt to me, powerful things of this world I am choosing to trust instead of putting my faith in the mighty King of the Universe?

The good news is, God assures me, just as He assured the Isrealites, that He is right there and ready to fill in the gaps the instant I turn to him. No matter how much I have striven and worked and chased the wrong things, no matter that I have been unwilling, God’s grace still abounds.

Take a look at the very next verse, God’s word to those frazzled, frightened Israelites, stranded atop a hill, exposed to all their enemies:

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.                                                      ~Isaiah 30:18, ESV

O, what a beautiful promise! Blessed are all those who wait for Him! Right here, right now, atop this lonely hill with the world pressing in around me, I want to rest in You.

Lord, teach me to be willing to rest. Don’t let the things of this world frighten me into running and striving when I could be resting and trusting. Lord, I believe that you can and will provide for me, rescue me, and defend me, even from the strongest foes. And in those moments when I don’t, Lord, help my unbelief. Amen.

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