Straight to the Source
By: Emily Messiter
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” - Matthew 11:28
“Come to me”: the invitation.
“All who labor and are heavy laden”: the qualification.
“Rest”: the promise.
As I write this blog post, I am on the countdown for my 19th first day of school. The whole slew of emotions - from excitement about buying new pens to the dread of seeing daylight getting shorter and summer coming to an end - continue to surface after all these years, but I am noticing now a new despairing fatigue as my fun, full summer is coming to an end. I remember how tiring school and work (and trying to have a life outside of school and work) can be. As I head into my first day back to school, I feel the urge to slam the brakes on summer, certain that I am not ready to bear the heavy weight of the academic year once again.
Chances are, whether you are headed back to school this week, entering a busy season of work, or chugging through your daily routine, you too would identify, or have identified, as one who labors and is heavy laden. I think that, to a certain extent, this is an inevitable part of living in a fallen world - we will not feel at home on this side of paradise. We crave rest, flipping through our calendars with wide eyes and wondering when things will slow down, only to find that our lives are full, and trying to convince ourselves that maybe catching up on sleep is overrated. Yet there is something inside of us that insists that we are not made to be swept away in an emptying whirlwind of scheduling, so we try to grasp at rest and relief wherever we can find it. This process looks different for all of us. Ideally, we would head straight to prayer, but I doubt I’m the only one who explores other options first. At the end of a long day, I am most certain that what I NEED is a long run and a lettuce wrap and hang-out time with my roommates. Maybe lettuce wraps aren’t your thing, but what else do you use to try to fill yourself back up? Is it Netflix? Scrolling through Instagram? Breaking into your stash of midnight snacks? Texting your best friend all night?
It’s no surprise that, relying on worldly means and my own self-understanding to fill an empty tank, I often find myself complaining to Jesus in desperation, “I’m just so tired. I don’t know if I just need to sleep for a week or go on a silent retreat for a month or lie on a beach for the weekend.” What I am not saying is that Jesus does not want to hear my cries of desperation, nor that He doesn’t like that I love to run and eat lettuce and spend time with my friends. He delights in giving us these gifts that uniquely bring us joy and make us smile like no one else can. But lately I have experienced His gentle invitation to go deeper. “Come to me, you who labor and are heavy laden,” He says. “Come to me, the one who created your heart, who knows you and your needs better than you know yourself (Jesus sees right through your hanger, people!!), who is not satisfied with only giving you the good things I have created, but who desires to give you all of me.” While self-knowledge and understanding the roots of our very human struggles is valuable, I sometimes spend so much time (even excessive amounts of time in worship and prayer) analyzing what my INFJ - phlegmatic-melancholic - lover-of-quality-time-and-affirmation - Enneagram Type 9 -self needs, that I neglect to go straight to the source Himself. Am I too busy trying to preserve my own life, focusing inward in a desperate attempt to “figure out life” that I never fully respond to the invitation to lose myself in Life Himself?
In all this rambling, I want to convey that there is an abundance of life that I believe we rarely touch because we are distracted by the undue burden of trying to figure out how to handle our burdens on our own. If you find yourself heavy laden as you begin this new school year, I want to reassure you that rest is His promise. And this rest may not look like what you have in mind. It might hurt, it might stretch you beyond the limits of love and self-gift that you have placed on yourself. But it will be full. It will be good. It will be Him. Take heart in the knowledge that He knows how much you are capable of, He knows exactly what you need, and He promises to never abandon you to your own devices.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” - Romans 8:26
Emily Messiter is a graduate student in Spanish who works as a teaching assistant at Wayne State University and as an administrator for BLR and i.d.9:16. Some of her favorite things include long runs, college football, Mexico City, Pine Hills Camp, and slow mornings complete with hot coffee, oatmeal, and prayer time.