I have a t-shirt and across the front in white block lettering it reads #TIRED. It is supposed to be a cheeky tee you wear on lazy weekends or with pajama pants to bed or something an adorably over-primped Instagram influencer would put on for a perfectly styled selfie as she hugs a cup of coffee on a Monday morning. I bought it because at that time, I was literally #tired. My iron levels were dangerously low—like if I didn’t stop and get IV drips of liquid iron, I ran the risk of passing out while standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes. Our bodies are magnificently perceptive and often the first to inform us that something’s off. Mine was throwing flags and waving its arms and yelling at me: Emily, this isn’t working! You must slow down and pay attention. What I was doing, the pace I was moving at, how I was living, and my way of being were leading me in the wrong direction. My body crashing was the messenger of a much deeper truth I had known but not yet acknowledged: my soul had grown weary and something needed to change.
I’m beginning to believe that most people come to this point of exhaustion; it just happens at different times and seasons and for different reasons. I wonder if we all, at some point, look at our lives and question quietly is this it? It sounds terribly ungrateful so most of us would never admit the dissatisfaction aloud, but it’s there, nevertheless.
This life that I’ve made for myself is not quite as I thought it would be.
This job is not as fulfilling as I dreamed.
My marriage is not making me happy.
I have a closet full of clothes with nothing to wear.
I didn’t know parenthood was this hard.
The kids have grown and I’m not sure what to do with myself.
I’m dizzy but if I stop for a second, the spinning plates will all come crashing down.
The problem is that none of these things were made for true, long-term satisfaction. No title, husband, accomplishment, dollar amount will truly be enough. When we put our hope in them to fill us up, to give us purpose and meaning and call it our identity, well, that’s when we find ourselves in a pit of trouble. If we live as if our identity—the very essence and value of us as a human being—is determined by what we do, then we’ve set ourselves up for a life of lonely exhaustion.
Then we open our Bibles to Matthew 11:28 and read Jesus’s words: “Are you tired? Are you worn out? Burned out on religion?” (MSG).
Yes. Yes. We answer. And we lean in, so weary and wanting, toward this compassionate recognition. We are so hungry for rest.
If Jesus were a modern-day motivational speaker, he’d offer this advice: “Well then, try harder! Be more intentional! Create a vision board and follow the 15 steps. Hustle! It’s up to you!” If he were a modern-day skeptic, his best advice would be said with a hopeless shrug of the shoulders: “Don’t let anyone tell you what to do. Quit the hard things. You do you.”
I’m poking fun, but it’s true, right? These are the mantras of our current culture, and upon reflection, they’re the innate impulses within all of us. We either grit our teeth and try harder or give up altogether. Thankfully, Jesus is not bound by our broken ways of doing life and he offers a third option – a holy invitation freely extended to us whether we’re striving or hiding.
“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).
It’s a beautiful invitation, isn’t it? So gentle and full of promise, not demanding or critical or based on my own effort. If you’re anything like me, I read this verse at the height of my tiredness and thought to myself: I want to learn how to recover my life! I want to take a real rest. I don’t know what the unforced rhythms of grace are, but they sound wonderful. And, more than anything I wish to live freely and lightly because living bound and heavy is not working out very well.
Accepting this invitation changed my life. It’s not only an invitation to live eternally with him when our time is done on earth, but an invitation into abundant life now. We don’t have to live from a place of insecurity, self-protection, numbness, and striving. He ushers us out of darkness and into a rich and satisfying life, offering freedom and a secure sense of who he is and who he created us to be. Jesus reorients us so we can live from a place of love, purpose, belonging, and identity instead of working for these things. He restores us and shows a better way to live, exchanging insecurity for quiet confidence, anxiety for peace. He gives us our identity and purpose and in response, we gratefully offer ourselves back to him for his glory and the good of others.
Never in my wildest, childhood dreams would I have imagined that my name would appear on a book as author and illustrator. Only recently have I accepted that I truly am an artist. I suppose that’s how a lot of us feel about the gifts we’ve been given; we think the space is reserved for the more qualified, better trained, the expert and elite, all the while missing out on being the person God created us to be.
I didn’t want to miss that chance. I don’t want you to, either.
Emily Lex is a watercolor artist and author. In whatever she does, Emily’s desire is to shine a light on the beauty, goodness, and truth all around us so that we might see more clearly who God is and who we are. She resides outside the Seattle, Washington, area with her husband and four children. Connect with her at emilylex.com and on Instagram @emily.a.lex.
Her new book Freely and Lightly: God’s Gracious Invitation to a Life of Quiet Confidence details Emily’s journey toward becoming the person God has created her to be. Emily’s shares the lessons she’s learned to equip and inspire you in your own spiritual walk toward a Christ-directed life filled with profound purpose and meaning.
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