We were in the middle of a crowded Panera, people scurrying everywhere with hot bowls of soup and huge salads, and we sat in the comfortable chairs beside the fireplace to connect with one another as we each tended to the tasks before us.
We soon became lost in that wonderful rhythm of chat and work, chat and work, chat and…sleep.
I will quickly add that I dozed off in the midst of the work part of that rhythm, and not the chat.
Even so, Alayne decided to capture the moment for later use.
And her friends are still laughing.
I tried to remind her of what my father always says when he’s caught napping like this—that it’s the truest sign of a clear conscience. (And by that equation, Alayne won’t possibly be able to sleep that peacefully for weeks, what with her unfortunate decision to take a picture of her hapless, sleeping husband weighing so heavily on her mind.)
But I knew that a clear conscience wasn’t why I was sleeping.
I fell asleep because I am exhausted.
The “dragging down every bone” kind of exhausted.
That’s what John O’Donohue describes in his blessing called “For One Who Is Exhausted.” He writes,
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
I read O’Donohue’s blessing and know it is meant for me. I am the one who is traveling “too fast over false ground,” the one leaving too much within me unattended. And everything keeps falling into my mind with increasing weight, causing everything to become laborsome.
Even the things I love.
Maybe you’ve had it happen to you, but as my mind has been wrestling with these exhausting thoughts, I started seeing the same quote show up everywhere. I finally stopped long enough to hear the words.
“The antidote to exhaustion is not rest, but wholeheartedness.”
The quote is most often attributed to poet David Whyte, but he heard David Steindl-Rast speak these words to him in a conversation they once had.
I hear wisdom in those words, because I know the truth of my exhaustion. It is not from being overworked. I love the gift of being a pastor, the things it allows me to do, and the people with whom I get to share my life. I find great joy in ministry and give thanks for the life it makes possible for me.
No, my exhaustion stems from forsaking those things which make my heart sing. It is not from doing too much. It is too often choosing to do the wrong things.
Today I long for the rhythm of my heart to find rest in wholeheartedness, in those things that give me life. And I am surprised at how quickly those things spring from my heart when I imagine what they would be. It is as if they were just waiting to finally be heard:
I want to slowly wind along some hidden trail through a canopy of trees, to just keep walking until the trail releases me onto some mountain’s edge, and there to feel the sun on my face and the wind surrounding me as I soak in the goodness of God’s creation.
I want to hold the gift that remains mine of being a child, to just sit and talk with my parents and to thank them for the tender mercies of their care that has carried me from the cradle until now.
I want to notice the ways that my wife grows deeper and stronger each day, to enjoy the fullness of our life as we grow old together.
I want to cherish the moments with my children who grow older with each breath they take, to hold their hearts, if not their hands, and to let them know that I love them and would choose them every time.
I want to sit down at a table with a pen and a pile of paper, and to just write note after note to people who have shared with me so generously over the years some piece of themselves—all the teachers and neighbors and friends and co-workers and coaches who wanted nothing but the best for me, to somehow let them know that I am grateful.
Of course, that’s not an exhaustive list.
I’m hoping I’ll find it’s the opposite.