Running on Empty
I photographed a wedding in October located 2 and a half hours west of Saskatoon. I had filled my small car with gas when my assistant and I left the city in the morning, but was too pre-occupied with the wedding to think about getting more at any point in the day. We were just under an hour away from home on our way back when I saw a sign for a gas station coming up. Remembering that prices were lower there than in the city, I looked down at my gauge to see if I should stop. Not only could I use a top up, I needed a top up. "Good thing I checked," I thought, "we might not have made it home." I then looked at the time and realized that it was nearly 1 in the morning and the small town station was definitely not open.
We spent the rest of the drive on the edge of our seats, literally praying we wouldn’t run out of fuel. We thought through who we would call if it happened. Unfortunately neither my assistant nor I had boyfriends who would rush to our aids in shining armour (or in this case, with a jerry can of gas). We decided her dad was our best bet.
Though we both managed to breathe a sigh of relief once we finally made it into the city, it was now close to 2 am and of course nothing en route to my house was open. I still had to make it home with enough gas left to get to a station in the morning. We only hit one red light but I made sure to time it just right so I wouldn't have to make a complete stop in fear that I wouldn’t be able to get going again.
Somehow I made it home and had no problems driving the 2 blocks to the closest co-op the next day. It would probably make for a better story if we actually did run out of gas that night, but God still decided to use this near failure to teach me something in the morning. I was up early to visit a church out of town to give some announcements about camp.
While it was just myself, Jesus, and the beautiful golden fields, God reminded me that even though the gas tank in my car was full, I was running on empty.
I hadn’t taken a full day off in 26 days. On the first day of the month I moved into a new house and on the 2nd I started a third job and I had been going non-stop since then. I had evening commitments 4 days a week. I’d been working every weekend - even Sundays. The closest thing to a day off I had was on thanksgiving, when my workday consisted of editing a family session between hosting dinner and going to bed.
Part of me enjoys having a lot going on. Pursuing my career, building relationships, getting involved in community. But a bigger part of me was tired.
Tired. Stressed. Exhausted. Worn-out. I felt like I was driving home at 1 in the morning with my gas light on after working an 11 hour wedding. Every. Single. Day.
I was reminded of the verses in Matthew 11 where Jesus says:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? 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.”
You’ll learn to live freely and lightly. I liked the sounds of that.
I always try to go to Christ daily to find that rest and to learn more about His grace. Whether it be reading a chapter of God's Word before bed, or just chatting with Jesus on my drive to work, it helps me through those days that never seem to end and puts my focus back on God. It’s necessary and it’s rewarding, but it's still missing something.
Two years ago, during the summer before I started college, a friend and I made a commitment with one another. We decided that we would not do homework on Sundays. We didn’t want to have the debate of if we should skip church to finish an assignment due the next day, or pass an opportunity to support a friend to study for an exam. We agreed that we would just get it all done on Saturday, and leave Sunday to God. We both knew our workloads would be intense, and we were right. It was really difficult some weeks. But it was also the best thing ever, because every single Sunday, we were able to find rest. God showed me how to take “real rest” and it was awesome.
Somehow this fall I started to overlook my Sundays. Those evenings turned from a time formerly devoted to God into hours I regarded as wasted if they weren’t used to catch up on e-mails or finish up editing a session from the week before. But recently God has reminded me of what He said in Exodus,
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work.”
Sometimes I need to work on Sundays. The Sunday after that wedding I was speaking at a church. The week before that I was hosting a youth retreat. It happens. But I don’t think it always needs to be Sundays that are my Sabbath. It can be any day of the week, I just need to have one. Last year Sundays worked well. During the summer, Saturdays are typically my day off. Now that I have two busy jobs it’s hard to pick a specific day that consistently works to take off each week. But I can, at the beginning of each week, select a day on which I will do no work. A day that I will devote to rest, both physically, mentally, and spiritually.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”
This verse from Deuteronomy 6:5 was our theme at camp this summer. I think that when you break it down, loving God in all of these areas also means finding rest in Him in all of these areas.
God created the world and everything in it in 6 days. He could have left it at that, but he didn't. He rested and teaches us to do the same.
It takes sacrifice. Sacrifices like telling one of my bosses that I can only work 2 days a week instead of 3 and getting laid off because of it. Or leaving e-mails sitting in my inbox for an entire 24 hours before responding to them. Or turning down social functions to finish up work I can’t do the next day. But those sacrifices are so minute in comparison to the one Christ made for me. He has commanded me to love Him and to find rest in Him. And not because it benefits God, but because God knows that it will benefit me.
He created us and he knows exactly what we need.
Take a look at your schedule. Are you burnt out from being busy? Have you been forgetting the Sabbath? Think about what changes you can make to benefit yourself and your relationship with God. Because we can’t survive running on empty. We need Christ to fill us up.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5