We left the hotel room in a flurry of bags, blankets and collected “treasures” from a week in Texas. Since I tend to get sleepy when driving past mid-afternoon I was determined to get on the road by 7:00 am. The kids, though, groggy, were on board with the idea. They were as ready to be home and in their own beds as their mama!
As we paraded down the sidewalk to the parking lot one of my kids began to leave a trail. A shoe. A shirt. A book. Frustrated by the delay, I looked back to figure out why they were dropping all of this stuff, expecting to find an unzipped zipper or something like that. Instead, I realized this child had thought it would be faster just to wad all of their loose belongings into their bathrobe and carry the awkward bundle to the car where, I guess, it would have been deposited on the floor and stepped on for the next eight hours. My child carried an empty backpack that was fully capable of holding all these things securely.
I scolded them, explaining why failing to secure the belongings had only resulted in delay and frustration and wouldn’t it have been easier to just throw it all in the bag instead of leaving a trail of clothing from the hotel to the car that you now have to go back and pick up? And if we hadn’t looked back and noticed the stuff on the ground we would not have known what the heck had happened to all those clothes!
Then God gave me a spiritual flick on the head, nudging me to listen to what I had just said and, in turn, listen to what He wanted to tell me:
We have so many things we are asked to carry. Our relationships, our homes, our jobs, finances, families, our health and spiritual disciplines are all responsibilities we must juggle. But what we often forget is that we don’t have to carry all of them up front all of the time. What we need to hold in our hands changes constantly. It can feel so overwhelming but we must intentionally keep the main thing the main thing! The rest can be stowed away temporarily.
Think of the Holy Spirit as our great Backpack. (I know…this is a big stretch! Bear with me here!) The Bible says the Holy Spirit is our helper. (John 14:26) It also says Jesus brings rest in the midst of the difficulties of life, promising not to “lay anything heavy or ill-fitting” on us. (Matt 11:29) So as I imagine this, I see myself…when walking well in faith…with Jesus by my side. He is wearing the backpack that holds all of my “stuff.” As my day progresses and my family needs to be front and center, I reach into the backpack and take them out, giving them my full attention and tending to their needs. Then, a little while later, I get an email and a bill is due. I can temporarily entrust my family in Jesus’ care as I take out the “financial” burden from the backpack, tending to it while my kids entertain themselves, read, play, etc. Then the dog throws up. ALL the stuff goes in the backpack at that point because…well…dog vomit. Ugh. Then the afternoon continues and my husband comes home. I put the stress over what I just cleaned up in Jesus’ backpack and focus on this man that God has given me, greeting him with a smile and kiss and offering him dinner and a chance to rest. Again, all of my responsibilities are nearby and available to be tended to as needed, but they are not all up front and overwhelming me all at the same time. (And thank goodness for that because who wants dog puke front and center all the time! Sorry…I digress.)
Does this make sense? I think one of the biggest mistakes we can make as human beings is the same one my child made. We don’t trust that there is enough time or energy to get all the things done so we refuse to put ANY of them down and soon they are spilling out all over the place and nothing gets done well. But Jesus is right here by our side with an empty backpack and He is not only fully capable of holding every single one of our burdens, he WANTS to hold them. It doesn’t mean He takes the burdens out of our lives completely, but He does take them out of our overfilled arms and off our backs!
As a woman, a wife, and a mom my life has gone through many seasons. There are years where my biggest accomplishment was that I took a shower and the kids were still alive at bedtime. There are others where I was more productive in keeping home, relationships outside my home, and serving. Some years I have been a prayer warrior, others I have barely breathed out two or three words of desperation to God while trying to bring down a high fever or handle an epic tantrum. We cannot do everything all of the time. And when we try, we will generally not do any of them well.
It’s OK, young mama, if your babies are demanding all of your time and you had to order pizza for dinner two nights in a row. But make eating pizza an event! Light candles! Play music! Thank God as a family for that convenience and celebrate it! You will have more time to cook as your kids grow, I promise. And when you do, it doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy. And please don’t wish away their little years by longing for things that would bring you more accolades. In these long, exhausting years do your very best to be satisfied with the approval of the audience of One. Your Heavenly Father sees and knows every sacrifice, every bottle cleaned, every diaper changed, and every exhausted kiss you give your husband.
My dear sister who is caring for a very sick loved one, maybe you stayed up later than everyone else last night and watched Netflix instead of doing the sink full of dishes. That may not have been the most productive use of that hour…but then again maybe it was. You have to build rest into your day in order to survive. Sabbath. Call a friend and ask her to bring you coffee. Offer up breath prayers when you are desperate and know that God hears them just as clearly as longer, more eloquent offerings. Just be in His presence. You don’t have to say a thing.
My single friend, you may long for husband and a house full of kids. (Or maybe you don’t!) God has not given you that “burden” to carry in life and you may feel like a third wheel at social gatherings, but you are very needed and useful. Serve Him. Serve His people who run around like chickens with their heads cut off and be an instrument of peace and rest in your community and church! Use your freedom to go where young mothers cannot in their season of life. Pave the way for us who will, one day, be empty-nesters and join you on your adventures!
Most importantly, friends, seek the Lord. Ask Him what he wants you to hold in your hands at this moment. Then don’t give in to the temptation to carry anything more. That may sound simple, but you know as well as I do that it is not. Do one thing at a time and do it well, then put it in the “backpack” before taking out the next thing. This skill we work so hard to instill in children when learning to care for their belongings is just as useful to us as women as we navigate the busyness of life!
Gosh, I’m thankful for the lessons God teaches me through my kids. I would love to hear from you if you have anything to share in this area! You can comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I so enjoy interacting with you and learning about the ways you seek to keep life simple!