To The Weary

Dear Traveler,

Here’s what tired looks like for me – it looks like 5 seasons of Gilmore Girls in 5 weeks.

It looks like mood swings.
It looks like laundry hitting desperation point before I throw anything in the machine.
It looks like hermit living (because who has the energy to socialise?).

And it always sneaks up on me.

I think I have hard time noticing exhaustion unless it fits a movie pattern – I feel like I should be swooning onto a chaise lounge. Or at least taking long naps.

I think part of the problem is that there’s more than one kind of tired. Body tired – that we can mostly deal with. It’s soul-tired that drags me down.

Soul-tired is the kind of tired that sneaks up on you and wears you down. It’s the kind of tired that is happy with “good enough”. The kind that says, “I just can’t handle any more _____________.”

It’s the tired that’s born of expectations failed again and again.

It’s the tired that doesn’t think anything will ever change.

In his book Every Good Endeavour, Tim Keller talks about this as life “among the thorns and thistles”.

It’s an oblique reference back to the snake and the garden and the moment when everything took a drastic downward dive.

We sometimes forget that the curse of Genesis 3 wasn’t just about our eternal fate, it changed the very shape of our daily lives.

In a cursed world our expectations – those deep seated ideas of what life “should” be – are thwarted at every turn. We are, on some level, left reeling and frustrated because we’re not living the life we were made for.

Work is an easy place to see that tension. We know we were made for work (insert reference here), but here we are counting down the days till the weekend.

Leave aside the phenomenal problems of natural disasters and our own sins, and you’re still left with a bevy of frustrations the moment your hand goes to the proverbial plow.

Sickness can pull you away from tasks at exactly the wrong moment. Miscommunications and misunderstandings are rife in every area of life. Add to that your own limitations – failures, time constraints, confused priorities, varied responsibilities – and you have a recipe for continual frustration and defeat.

We may begin a task with bright-eyed enthusiasm, but a few months of life can leave us dejected and sore.

Ah. There it is – the soul weariness.

There’s a great story in the book of Ezra.

A little context – Ezra is one of the exiled Israelites finally returning to his ancestral lands. Their mission – to rebuild the destroyed temple of God.

It’s an arduous task (much opposition along the way), and when the foundations are finally laid they prepare to celebrate. Priests dress in their official robes, trumpeters trumpet, cymbals are clashed, and the people raise up their voices in song to the Lord.

But it’s a scene that’s undercut with sadness.

“But many of the priests and levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the peoples weeping…” (Ezra :12-13a)

The men who had seen the original temple wept because they knew what they had built was nothing in comparison.

Doesn’t that resonate with our lives? Even our moments of victory can be undercut by deep sadness. The memory of the work still ahead, the imperfections and failures along the way, the things we’ve given up to reach the end plague our thoughts.

So we too often look on the building projects of our lives and are pierced by despair. It will never be the glorious temple we dreamed of.

There was a lesson here for Israel – underlined for them by the words of the prophet Zechariah. You may remember his work on that classic Easter verse, “Behold your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is her, humble and mounted on a donkey…”

What Zechariah’s prophesies highlighted for this downtrodden people was that God was not finished with them yet.

Their handiwork may seem small, but the plan it was part of was glorious and sure.

That message is ours as well.

In psalm 138 David proclaims,

“The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me; Your steadfast love O Lord endures forever”

And here is today’s Benefit of God – His purpose will be fulfilled.

Our eyes lie to us all the time. They do their best to trick us into thinking that what is real is what we see in front of us.

But it simply isn’t true.

The Israelites may have seen a pathetic ruin of a building, but we know that their labor was part of steadily moving plan that climaxed with hope for the world.

We may look at our lives and our work and see ruins now, but the glimpses of good point to a promised future glory – a fabulous ending where those expectations of “what life should be” are finally met, the thorns are gone and the fruit is all that remains.

The reality of life is this: the glory of the temple was never the building, it was always the one who occupied it.

So we build, not because because it’s beautiful, but because we believe (no matter what our eyes say) that the glorious one will come and occupy our broken lives and shine through them.

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