Repentance redefined: Giving up exhaustion and opening to change

Repentance redefined: Giving up exhaustion and opening to change February 16, 2013

Day 4: Repentance redefined: Giving up exhaustion and opening to change

“exhaustion was not fertile soil for growth and change”

We had been meeting for about two years when my directee said to me: “You know the most helpful thing you’ve said to me since we’ve been meeting is

“God is not in favor of exhaustion.””

As a woman who struggles with over-work, conversation about balance and spiritual practice were a large part of our conversations together.  But it wasn’t until we began to talk about the theology behind  exhaustion that change began to happen. What does chronic exhaustion say about what I believe about God?

Many of us have heard it time and time again:  “You have to lose your life to save it.”

Jesus said that or something similar repeatedly in Scripture.  I grew up hearing that those words meant that I was to work until I could work no more, sacrifice until I was depleted, and then I would be deemed as faithful and transformed by that exhaustion.

But in my life, that view made less and less sense. I found that it just wasn’t working.  I was just exhausted.  And exhaustion was not fertile soil for growth, change, or anything that looked like love, joy, or peace.

And then I read three words that came just before one of those statements by Jesus:

Remember Lot’s wife.

Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.

When I went back to Lot’s wife’s story , what I saw was a woman who died because she was afraid to change. She was called to flee from the city to the mountains, told by angels no less, and turned back to her old life instead.

Change is hard. Really hard. Even good, freeing, soul-satisfying wonderful change is hard.

Even change that leaves behind exhaustion is a challenge.

 Or change that reconnects us to family.

 Or change that lets us shine in our giftedness.

If you’ve followed this blog this lent, my hope is that you have experienced that non-traditional upside down redefined repentance is bringing light and joy and freedom to your soul…. that freedom to connect in messiness, to speak and to stand tall is producing the fruit of God’s spirit.  Counter-intuitively, at the same time, I trust that it has been hard. Actually even more difficult than if I had asked you to give up chocolate or facebook or a lot of your hard-earned money.

As women, an invitation to more sacrifice can deepen our ruts of caring for others and is often not helpful.

 Self-care challenges those ruts, and sometimes even our theology.

As Brother Vryhof writes in today’s version of Brother Give Us a Word,

 We may be afraid to be totally and unconditionally loved by God. What would it mean for us to begin to see ourselves – and to live – as beloved children of God? What image of myself might I have to let go of in order to embrace this new identity?

– Br. David Vryhof
, Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Letting go of old beliefs and patterns is hard, even if those old patterns are destructive forces in our lives.

How would your life change if you really believed that God is not in favor of exhaustion?

One of the changes I am opening to presently is the delight of being welcomed into our daughter, son-in-law and grand-daughter’s life. My parents and I always struggled to connect. I am sure it was a co-created reality that we never managed to get past.  There was no estrangement; simply little connection. So, though I worked and hoped that that same distance would not be true with my own children, a part of me fell into that rut and never expected anything different.

But it is different.  In fact, we are going to our daughter’s house this evening to witness Georgia eating sweet potatoes for the first time. If recent history is a predictor of the future, it will be wonderfully enthusiastic, impossibly messy, great fun. To say “yes” to the invitation to go and make room in my life for such joy is what it means right now for me to lose my life (the distance I experienced and expected) to save it (to be transformed by the love of God in the form of a 6 month old and sweet potatoes.)

Who knew repentance could be such fun?… I promise I will share the pictures!








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