Believe it or not, living in quiet, serene and beautiful Africa can be just as busy as living in the U.S. People often have this rose-colored view of life here being automatically simple but, in reality, it is the people who make themselves busy, not the place. As a young couple moving here about a year ago, people were quick to see our energetic and eager attitude as new comers. Our number one prayer in moving to Zambia was that we would find a strong community, and God truly answered this tenfold! People were quick to usher us into their story, and we were excited to be a part of so many amazing things.
But as our year continued on, we started being worn down. There was something to do or someone to see literally every evening and weekend, and our lives became so full. The stress began to come out in our day-to-day with one another. Little things, like making dinner each night, seemed like a huge task, and it was challenging to navigate all these invitations to be a part of really amazing things. There are not enough hours in a day to do all that I wanted to do here, and when faced with so many choices, I struggle to decide what is important and I try my hardest to run towards everything all at once. I hear the call for balance and rest, but I just want to keep going just one more day.
I was running, but for what? I read this quote from Eugene Peterson in a book this week and it captures how I feel in the busiest of moments, when I am busy doing so many things that are good, but ultimately meaningless if done in such a way,
“We’ve all met a certain type of spiritual person. She’s a wonderful person. She loves the Lord. She prays and reads the Bible all the time. But all she thinks about is herself. She’s not a selfish person. But she’s always the center of everything she’s doing. ‘How can `I witness better? How can I do this better? How can I take care of this person’s problem better? It’s me, me, me disguised in a way that is difficult to see because her spiritual talk disarms us.’”
Even good things can get in the way of serving God. God answered my prayer for community and I became busy building it for myself. At the end, I was tired and I felt empty. I felt myself slipping back into these old habits as I came back into my life in Zambia after some time away. As I was sitting in church this week, tired from the week before, the words from this quotation popped into my head and I suddenly realized, “That’s me.” That’s why I’m so tired. I want to please this lovely community around me and live up to all the expectations they have for me, but I missed the whole purpose for my community in the first place.
This quote was tied into the book I was reading in reference to the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Many of us are familiar with the idea of avoiding being the prodigal son that runs away and spends all of his Father’s wealth, but I identify in with the older son. As I sit, tired from all my doing, I realize the older son’s emotions when the Father throws a party for his younger son that finally came home after he wasted away his Father’s money with reckless living. This is how the older son reacted,
“But he was angry and refused to go in. His father entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I have never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.” Luke 15:28-29
An author, Peter Greer, calls this concept the older brother is displaying, “Christian Karma,” meaning, when we do, do, do for God and we expect to get, get, get for me. I see this in myself as a very subtle truth. I don’t initially do, do, do for anything in particular, but when I am met with an unfortunate set of circumstances, I am quick to get upset and think to myself I do not deserve to do this. Why am I so tired of doing? Maybe I should just stop doing all of these good things because I’m not even sure at the end of the day that I am really better off after I do them. Once again, that’s not the point. The point is that it was never meant to be about me, me, me in the first place.
God has not called us to do, do, do for the sake of doing. He invites us to come in with Him and celebrate the Good News that we once were lost and now we are found. We will never earn the right to be found. But as we grow more to abide deeply in our Savior above all else, He reshapes our lives to look more like His. It is amazing grace and it’s all about Him.
As women who seek to follow after Him, how can we shift our focus this week? How do we get away from whatever good, bad or neutral thing we are busy doing, and celebrate with our Father? If you find yourself weary like I did this week, remember whose you are and work from the rest, peace and fulfillment that is only found in Him. We know these words well; may we live them out in the places God has called us this week.