The “Come to Jesus” Moment

February 21, 2014

I wonder sometimes if the slow-motion Christian discipleship I am undergoing as a cancer patient is giving me the opportunity to revisit issues, temptations, and misdirections of my past life as a pastor. Today the theme is fatigue, felt persistently now for weeks. It seems the effects of chemo and radiation sneak up on a person well after the treatment period is over. For me, what I had imagined would be almost six weeks of steady strengthening has turned out instead to be a disappointing holding pattern. Last week I had a short-term set back in the form of “the crud” morphing into strep throat.  All this is to say, “I’m tired, really tired.”

I’ve been exhausted in previous seasons of my life: the year our new church building was under construction and it felt like we planned everything twice (Plan A and Plan B); the year nine people in my congregation died between Thanksgiving and Christmas; the several ten-day General Assembly marathons with little sleep and high tension, equipping commissioners for their work. I’ve known seventy-hour work-weeks and all-nighters. Sometimes it is the result of poor planning, but quite often it is just because things happen and we are called to step up and step in, no matter what time it is. Yes, indeed, the life of a pastor is demanding and often exhausting.

But nothing like this. I’ve mentioned it before, perhaps on my Caring Bridge site, that my current fatigue is exhaustion felt at the cellular level. Though I have done no reading on this, I can report from personal experience that the full-on assault designed to vanquish the Beast has also done a number on me. I should be glad for this only because it is proof that the slings and arrows of medical science are on a “seek and destroy” mission throughout my body. And despite the fatigue, I have a very strong sense that the Beast has been slain. We’ll get confirmation of that when I have lung surgery on Monday, March 3. While I wait for that good word, I am required to draw strength not from my own powers but from another source.

One of the things God is doing in my life is replaying a “Come to Jesus” moment. While I use this phrase with humor, it is literally true. Whenever I feel the momentary panic of tiredness, it is as if the Lord were saying, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” Jesus actually said that, recorded for us in Matthew’s gospel:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Coming to Jesus at that very moment of weakness is both a skill and a privilege of the Christian life. It is pretty natural, for someone as proud and “strong” as I have been, to want to hide from Jesus in moments of weakness or fatigue. That instinct goes back to the Garden, when Adam and Eve dove into the bushes to avoid an encounter with God after their sin. It’s as if we only want to show our face before the throne to prove our strength, but what we are really doing is presenting a False Self to the One who knows better than we do what is our true condition.

But, my friends, there is no use hiding our true condition. In fact, Jesus invites us to come to him right now, and not wait until we feel better, until matters are more under control, or until we feel we’ve done our part (whatever that could possibly be) to gain God’s favor.  When Jesus said “Come to me and I will give you rest,” he was saying the only way we can be strengthened at the cellular level is by his gracious, gentle presence, tenderly expressing God’s love for us.

Getting to that place of quietness and trust comes with practice, but in the end the privilege of relationship with our Savior has made it easier to release my fatigue into his care. I was not so good at that in my early years as a pastor. The current experience has given me practice, and while I am not completely there yet, I know that I am hearing Jesus’ voice more clearly and responding more quickly in the “come to Jesus” moments.

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6 Responses to “The “Come to Jesus” Moment”

  1. Sarah Hill Says:

    Ah, Mary what a good word. Im praying for you as you rest in Him leading up to March 3. Blessings, sister. Sarah

  2. L. Lee Says:

    I felt the warmth and wisdom of your words. The tender call
    Of draw near and come to Jesus. Thanks for sharing
    Your heart. Linda

  3. Sarah Says:

    You are so good with words, even when you are so exhausted. It will take a while and a lot of that tiredness will go away. I turned 60 shortly after my last chemo. I also was very exhausted. I prioritized any shopping trips, and the three years I worked after that found me in bed much earlier in the evenings. I don’t know if it was the residue of the treatment or age or both that have left me feeling more tired in the 9 years since, but I would rather be alive enjoying life even if I tire quicker than the opposite of not having continued life and the opportunity to continue experiencing all of it at a slower pace. Blessings to you, and prayers as you have your surgery soon.

  4. Craig Pynn Says:

    Mary, you describe so precisely what I know too well. But this I also know, there is light at the end of the tunnel of fatigue. My prayer is that you find peace in your current state with the knowledge that better and more energetic times await. As you write, God uses weakness to build strength–not to mention patience! (Which of course is why they call us ‘patients.’)

    peace,
    Craig

  5. emd5542 Says:

    just grateful, Mary, that God gives you words from God’s heart to your ear that remind you Whose you are which then you share in print to remind us of the same. As I’ve been told many times over the years, “Nothing is ever lost with the Lord.” Hallelujah and Amen. Praying you onward and through March 3 and whatever challenges/ obstacles recovery and restoration may present. With love from this ole soul in Virginia, Eleanor

  6. Bruce Pope Says:

    Please change my address to bbp10@comcast.net.

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