Much of this post comes straight from the pages of my own journal. I’ve journaled a lot of my thoughts on the subject of renewal in the past months as I have desperately searched for and found renewal.
I had reached a state of depletion. After a very long period of pushing through, I “hit a wall” as they say, and felt like I had nothing left. Overwhelm was my constant companion.
This wasn’t the first time. If this is sounding familiar, it’s likely because you’ve been around Velvet Ashes since the beginning, and you’ve heard me share this kind of story before.
So how had I ended up here? Again! Hadn’t I learned from previous burnout and intensive counseling? What was wrong with me that I was feeling like this? Again!
I felt guilt and shame over my exhaustion and overwhelm.
Never mind that a baby and moving (again) were part of my season. There’s no grace for yourself when shame is the voice you hear.
My thought process went like this:
I’m feeling this way because I haven’t managed my time and responsibilities well. I haven’t rested enough or had good boundaries or had enough time alone time with God. I haven’t created margin in my life to have space for the unexpected. I’ve tried to do too much, been unwilling to cut back.
The list went on. Ultimately, I saw my lack of renewal as a result of my failures.
I knew I could do what I usually did, which is to recommit myself to time management. I could pep myself up to redouble my efforts to be renewed. If I structure my life better, if I go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, eat better, exercise more, don’t skip Sabbaths, say yes and no to the right things, make a schedule, stick to a schedule…
All these things help. You and I both know that they do. But I knew that after a while (or no time at all) I would fail and slide right back into stress and overwhelm. Then the guilt and shame would come back and I’d begin the vicious cycle all over again.
And I was SO done with the vicious cycle.
Around this time a friend said, “There’s this book called ‘Humble Roots’ by Hannah Anderson. It’s about pride and humility, and it’s so good. I think you’d really like it.”
I smiled and nodded, all the while thinking, “My pride is low enough right now, thank you very much. Yes, of course my pride still needs refining, but I just can’t. Not now.”
So I passed for a few weeks. But then I needed a book to read, and that Holy Spirit nudge said, “This is your next book.” Sigh… fine.
Then I went and highlighted the entire book. I resonated on a deep level with the author’s struggles. I’d be engaged by her delightful stories of being a small Appalachian town pastor’s wife, and then suddenly she’d hit me with a two by four with statements like these:
“When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God’s place.”
Humble Roots made me re-think pride and humility in a way that I never had before. And the result was a surprising freedom. I realized that in attempting to manage my life, I was treating the symptoms, not the root. The root was my own pride, hiding behind good intentions. Hannah Anderson says that those of us who “work for Jesus” are especially prone to this. It’s my pride that causes me to live beyond my own limitations. I attempt to deny those limitations, in essence to deny my humanity, by thinking myself more capable or more necessary than I am.
“If we are to find rest from our stress, if we are to have any hope of escaping our pride, we must be grafted onto the one who is humility Himself. We can no longer simply be content to attempt to imitate Him; we must become part of Him in order to reflect Him.” We do this… “by encountering Jesus Himself. Through His humanity we learn what ours is supposed to be. Through His deity, He enables us to be what we are supposed to be. And when we are, when we exist as God intended us to exist, we will find rest.”
I needed a truer understanding of who I am, that I am but dust he has breathed life into, a full-fledged member of broken, limited humanity. I needed a truer understanding of who God is, the all-capable one who does not need me. His kingdom and ultimately, even my own family could go on without me.
Rather than being morbid, this was freedom and joy. Success or failure does not rest on my shoulders; it cannot define me. Anything I do can fail and ultimately God can redeem it and me. Instead, they become things I get to do, or not do! Either way, my identity is secure.
I have the freedom to fail, the freedom to rest, and the freedom to simply follow Jesus.
Will following Jesus lead me to times of weariness? Absolutely. We see that in the life of Jesus Himself, in His disciples, and in kingdom workers throughout history. But there’s no heavy guilt to bear with the weariness. Instead the weariness becomes an invitation to retreat into His sweet and sustaining rest.
We get to follow his pattern of serve and retreat, serve and retreat. Of course we’re not going to get it right all the time. We. are. human. I will likely end up hitting more walls in my life. But when I do, when I reach those face-down moments, I want to brush off the dust from which I was made, and encounter God’s heart for me. I know that when that happens, I’ll circle ever close, coming to a truer and truer understanding of who I am and who God is.
And that, friends, is renewal.
If you’ve been around this community for long, you know that “serve and retreat” is part of our DNA. Together we nudge each other to step away from the service we’re involved in to spend a time of renewal with Jesus in our annual Velvet Ashes Retreat. And we’re thrilled to announce this year’s theme and dates.
If you’re new around here, here’s some good news for you. This retreat comes to you, right where you are. It’s a personal or group retreat that we all do from wherever we are, historically in more than 90 countries around the world.
Registration is not open yet, but we want to let you know the dates now. Mark April 19-22 on your calendars. Check out more details here, including our new “two-night ideal timeframe for groups.”
Sign up to be notified when registration opens, so you don’t miss it.
If you’re interested in hosting a Retreat Gathering, check out our Host Page, where you can sign up to receive the Host Guide when it’s ready. Plus, you can already join the private Retreat Hosts Facebook Group.
If you’re hungry to encounter God’s heart, if you need the rest and renewal that only comes from His hand, then this retreat is for you. The heart of this retreat is to usher you into God’s presence, knowing that he has a very personal way he wants to touch you with his sustaining hand.
Let’s talk in the comments!
Anyone else out there feel guilty when you reach exhaustion and overwhelm?
What’s been your journey with pride and humility?
Who’s looking forward to the Retreat?! Where in the world will you be doing your retreat?
This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.
Share your images on this week’s theme with #VelvetAshesRenew. You can add yours!