We seemingly live in a CULTURE OF EXTREME FATIGUE. It is evident from harried moms and dads with busy work and family responsibilities all the way down to our young school children. An example of this is a recent exchange my youngest grandchild had with the priest at her school.
While my two granddaughters and I were seated on a church pew at a recent Grandparents’ Day event on the school campus, the priest asked the children, “What does your grandparent do for you that you like the best?” Hands shot up in the air and he began to make his way up and down the aisles of the sanctuary, receiving and repeating the students’ answers.
I noticed as soon as that question was asked, my attentive seven-year-old grandgirl raised her hand. She didn’t have to think about it. Evidently she knew exactly what she wanted to say was the best thing her Nonny does for her. And, by the way, I’m her Nonny. That’s what my grandchildren call me.
The sanctuary is large and the priest was all the way on the other side of where we were. As he moved about and pointed to individual students, there were the expected answers. “Gives me presents!” “Buys me ice cream.” “Lets me stay up late.” “Bakes cookies with me.” “Takes me to the movies.” “Goes with me for a walk in the park.” “Takes me fishing.” And many more.
Making his way across the auditorium, the priest finally acknowledged the raised hand of my little blondie in her crisp plaid school jumper. Her attire was uniform according to school requirements but her fashionista personality still shown through by her sparkly enameled fingernails, her multi-colored athletic shoes and particularly by the huge blue bow on top of her head.
What was the answer that my Little Miss Blue Bow had been waiting patiently to give? “She lets me sleep.” That’s what my granddaughter said was the best thing I do for her!
She was remembering the recent early summer mornings when her mom or dad had dropped her and her older sister off at my house for a “Nonny Day,” which is our pet name for days spent together when school is not in session. I always had activities such as cooking, crafts, piano, and swimming planned but catching up on sleep, when needed, was allowed.
First we would have our unhurried breakfast of a boiled egg and a piece of toast with butter, maybe with a little of Nonny’s homemade strawberry jam spread on top, and a glass of milk, juice, or water to drink. Their bodies and eyelids were droopy when they came in the door; now with tummies full, my grandgirls were even more sedated. So those pillows and blankets spread over the sofa and the inflatable mattress beckoned to their sleepy heads. O, how good it was to take a morning nap to make up for sleep lost to gymnastics, soccer practice, or a trip to an amusement park the evening before.
Our Lord also recognizes that we all at sometimes feel physically exhausted, mentally drained, spiritually impoverished or perhaps just overwhelmed by life. The Holy Bible in the book of Matthew records a teaching of Jesus to his twelve disciples when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, New International Version – NIV).
In the broader context of what this verse means, within the core instructions of the other Gospels, Jesus’ invitation to come includes loving the Lord God with everything you have within you–your heart, your mind, your spirit, your strength–and loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself (Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27). This “rest” that is promised is a restfulness or peacefulness of your spirit. The old Jewish law was based on obeying many regulations and rituals. With Jesus, the invitation is to come just as you are. You don’t have to be good enough. His perfection covers all of your imperfections.
The Bible instructs us to foster this peacefulness of spirit through moments of Scripture reading, reflection, meditation and prayer.
May I leave you with a timeless JUDEO-CHRISTIAN PRAYER OF BENEDICTION found in the Old Testament book of Numbers. A benediction is a blessing which many times is recited at the close of a worship service as a means of leaving the congregants with a feeling of peace and assurance of faith.
Perhaps in times of feeling agitated or stressed, you might say this benediction as a prayer for yourself, substituting the pronoun “me” for the original “you.”
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
And be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
(From The Old Testament of The Holy Bible, Numbers 6:24-26)
Connie Carlisle Polley, 2018