I’m in the season of life when you generally can get as much sleep as you want. I have no more babies or toddlers to tend in the wee hours, and I still haven’t hit menopause yet, which I hear is when your body decides that waking up at 4am is completely necessary. However, occasionally one of my teenagers wanders into my room at midnight to talk about their deep life problems like school, friends, or some conundrum like, “I can’t sleep. It couldn’t possibly be the extra-large double-shot mocha I had at 9pm, could it?”
Hmmm, child. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. However, I have a feeling that mocha means I WILL BE AWAKE UNTIL JESUS COMES BACK.
On the nights no one drinks too much coffee and they all go to bed by 10pm, I like to escape to a fictional world while soaking in the tub. This is self-care at its finest in my world.
Self-care has become so trendy, hasn’t it? It’s not just about warm bubble baths, though. Self-care often involves luxuries like pedicures and massages. It’s the internal reset we find on an evening hike under the colors of the sunset. Self-care is wholesome foods and time at the gym. It’s evenings with people we love and listening to music that reminds us everything will be okay in the end.
We seem to be learning to value our mental and emotional health, which is a good thing.
And yet, I can’t help wonder if there is something even better for my soul than just good food, good friends, and a good view. Not that those things aren’t valuable, but it’s just that Jesus once said something about how to find rest for my soul, and it had less to do with reading a book in the bath, and more to do with pursuing him.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
It is strange to me, the way Jesus welcomed all the weary and burdened folks out there to put on another yoke. Frankly, sometimes Jesus makes no sense at all in a human sort of way. If someone worn out from carrying super heavy things showed up at your house, would you offer them what you’re already carrying, too? I wouldn’t. I would tell them to take a load off and practice some self-care for a little while.
Let’s cut to the truth. There’s a sharp-edged promise in this passage that makes me a little uncomfortable. Jesus promises rest to anyone who picks up what he is carrying. Jesus carried a cross, literally and I suppose figuratively as well. He lifted a wooden cross and he lifted the debt of sin of the whole stinking world. When I think of all Jesus carries, I don’t think of a light and easy burden.
Death and sin aren’t really a restful spa experience. Crucifixion seems like an experience that would weigh me down in a way that no morning sunrise at the beach could lighten.
But I’m really trying today to get what Jesus is trying to say.
I’m trying to imagine the scene when Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 11. The gritty sand of the Middle East under my sandals, the crowds of people gathered to hear this unusual rabbi. Jesus has traveled to the towns his twelve disciples came from. He’s speaking to the people who helped to raise these twelve men who left everything behind to follow a possible Messiah.
I wonder how I would have felt to be there when Jesus tells all the weary people I have loved for my whole life that they should come to him and take up his burden so they could find true rest.
I would have wanted all of them to run after Jesus. I wouldn’t have wanted any of them to settle for a bubble bath and a good meal when they could have living water and the bread of life. But I would have been a little naive about what lay ahead for all of us. I wouldn’t have found it restful to know the path would lead to so much suffering.
But because Jesus was still an all-knowing God; because he was fully God and fully man; he knew everything about everything. He knew the weight of pain in his future. He knew Judas would betray him. He knew he would be scourged and crucified. He knew Peter would deny him and all his followers would desert him.
Still, he called his burden and yoke light and easy.
In contrast with our divine brother Jesus, I am only fully human, and so I am uncomfortable with the idea that extreme suffering is an easy load to bear when you carry the love of God within you.
My human mind wants love to lead me to greater levels of self-care. I do not want love to lead to self-sacrifice.
But a straightforward look at the gospel tells us God’s love propels us to the last place in line. Not because we don’t deserve to be first or best (Jesus certainly did!), but because God’s rest and favor are there at the bottom of the heap the world likes to call “important pursuits in life”.
I know this isn’t a good post on how the hustle will make you happy and you should never let anyone stand in the way of whatever fills you with joy. I wish so much I could tell you that’s the way of Jesus because that is the path that looks and feels so life-giving to my flesh.
A bath can help us forget the weight of life for an evening. But Jesus has come to teach us how to lay down the weight of the hustle so we can carry the love of God. Real rest for our souls lies in living as if whatever you stand to lose is worth throwing to the dogs if you can get another step closer to the most humble being who ever existed.
Rest isn’t a state of mind, a great spa by the beach, or a rhythm of life as much as it’s a diligent inner commitment to being humble and lowly like Jesus.
I don’t know, really, if Jesus would enjoy a bubble bath as much as I do. I don’t know if he would love your favorite hiking trail or if he would make popcorn and join you in your next binge-worthy pursuit on streaming tv.
But I know he wouldn’t choose any of those things if it meant losing you.
No self-care can give you that kind of eternal value. The sharp-edged promise of Jesus means if we will loosen our grasp on our rest in this life, we will enter our Father’s rest in the next. The real question is, are we awake enough to pick up the yoke Jesus offers us?
Stay woke and in love with Jesus, dear friends. All our hearts really long for lies in that.