Friends, I want to encourage you this week with a word God gave me a few days ago: Don’t drown in the shallow end. Let me explain what that means.
Right about now, we are all feeling this pandemic life a little more deeply. We’re weary (yes, we were tired already but somehow this week, for many of us it seems worse). I told someone one day last week at lunchtime, “I’m just tired. Nine weeks ago, this was the middle of the day. Today, this is the middle of the night.” From my conversations with you, it sounds like I’m not alone.
What I’m realizing is that in those first weeks of quarantine, we were able to muscle our way through on adrenaline and sheer self-will. We were chalking each other’s driveways, taking each other meals, checking in with each other often. (Remember those days? In corona-time that was ten years ago.)
But now? Now we’re just tired and what we need now requires a different set of muscles.
Do you know how muscles build? They build by tearing. When we do things like lift weights, we cause small tears in our muscles called micro-tears. It is the body’s repair or healing of those micro-tears that makes the muscle stronger.
That’s how muscles build — by tearing! Who knew?!
In these last ten weeks or so, we have experienced the spiritual and emotional equivalent of a thousand micro-tears. We have had to work a set of muscles we didn’t even know existed and in the working of them, we’ve felt the tears. We have had to flex and pivot in ways that were uncomfortable. From home-schooling, to work-at-home orders, to unemployment, to online worship and zoom-work, to mask-wearing in public … whew! That’s a lot of flexing and pivoting.
Every pivot has meant working muscles we weren’t used to moving, which means more tearing. And that hurts, but oh my! What muscles we’ll have when this all finally settles down! We will be the spiritual equvalent of an Arnold Schwarzenegger!
“But what if I don’t make it? What if I’m just too tired-discouraged-lonely-burned-out right now to go on?”
I hear you.
But this too is good news. Because the Bible teaches us that God does his best work when we come to the end of ourselves! We may feel like we’re reaching the end of our resources, but this is exactly the place God wants us to be. The wise focus in this season is not on the pain but on the skills we have learned, the opportunities for personal growth we’ve uncovered, and the chance to depend on God more than ever before.
Listen: What if the best stuff doesn’t kick in until we get to the end of “us” and have nothing left to cling to but God? What if all this tearing and pivoting is has the effect of strengthening us for God’s preferred future?
If that’s so (and I believe it is), then my encouragement for you who are weary is this: Lean in. Don’t drown in the shallow end. You may feel these days like you’re out of gas or at the end of your rope, but the good news is that this is precisely where God does his best work.
In a section of the book of James that is all about wisdom (James 3:13-18), James ends by talking about peace and peacemakers. For five verses he describes the difference between real wisdom and its counterfeit and then he ends with a line about peace. He writes, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).
What strikes me about this section of James is that the writer draws a straight line between wisdom and peace. That tells me that peace and wisdom are intimately attached. Which means that real peace, like real wisdom, isn’t generated on our own strength. The peace we are looking for — real peace, supernatural peace, the kind we cannot generate ourselves, the kind that will let us sleep at night, that will keep us from drowning in the shallow end — comes from a vertical pivot that requires its own spiritual muscle.
So here’s the life hack: If you want peace, pray for wisdom. Wisdom is what will keep your head above the waves when the water feels deep and you’re too tired to tread.
That’s my word for you: Pray for wisdom. Don’t drown in the shallow end.
And remember: every day we’re in this is one day closer to a healed and whole world. And that fact is true even without a pandemic. We know how this story ends: Jesus wins.