I like it when things add up. I’m not alone in this. When you buy candy from a seedy convenience store, inspecting each aisle for the snack of choice, you expect the change given to you from the clerk to be the right amount. If you’re like the average person, you probably avoid working on your budget because you know things likely won’t add up. You may be in the red, and you’d rather not recognize it.

I have to confess that I have come to see an equation in my life that doesn’t add up. Yet I have continued to live by its math despite the fact that I am accruing a massive deficit. I’m living in the red, but even now, I’m not quite willing to admit that it doesn’t work.

Here’s the equation:

If I’m tired, then rest is not the solution.

Or for you math nerds out there:

T ≠ R


If rest is not the solution to being tired, then what is? My black sugar, what Julia calls the soda of death: Coca-cola. If I’m tired, I drink something with caffeine. It could be tea, which is regal and boring. It’s too proper. It could be coffee, except I don’t like coffee. So it’s coke. Lots, and lots of coke. If that doesn’t give me the pick me up I need, then I eat candy. Any sort of candy will do. Preferably something coke flavored. If I’m desperate: raw sugar. I’ll just eat a tablespoon or two of sugar. I realize this is hardly an appropriate activity for a fully grown man, but such is life: full of age defying surprises.

When I’m tired, or feeling unenergized or worn out, I automatically assume that the problem can be solved by ingesting something. I doubt I’m alone in this, otherwise soda-pop-sugar-world would hardly be a bagillion dollar industry. But it’s so bizarre if you think about it. How is it that the solution to tiredness is, well, a tame drug? What happened to the solution being rest, or sleep, or fresh air, or something, anything healthier. Why do we instead turn to 5 Hour Energy?

I have to admit that my consumption of the delicious soda of death is only the symptom of a much larger problem. I don’t want to accept my limitations. I don’t want to create room for margin. I wear the badge of “busy” that our society awards to worthwhile people. But I pay an awful price. I don’t sleep well. I have a tough time making time and space for everything, let alone everyone. I’m decently stressed. I’m fairly unhealthy.

I have goals and aspirations, by golly, I even have a personal mission statement! It goes something like this, “I will not bow down to the limitations of my body and abilities. I will power through, red-eyed, shaky-handed, one sugary step in front of the other.” It’s ugly, but if I’m honest this is the mantra of my heart on a day to day basis, embedded deeply in everything I do.

The only problem, which I don’t quite want to admit to recognizing, is that it’s unsustainable. I’m not just talking about the absurd intake of caffeine and sugar. My goals are ones that require many people, not just one person. Yet I think I can accomplish them all on my own. I may not want to be God over the whole world, but a little god over my own life will do. I could say all this is an identity issue, trying to find my security in my accomplishments and talents (it surely is), but its really much more simple than that: it’s a sin issue.

I want to be something other than human.

Our society, as my friend puts it, dehumanizes us. It teaches us that, “We do not have to accept our limits. We do not have to accept our shortcomings. We do not have to accept that we are not perfect. We can push through. We can improve. We can do it all, have it all, make it all, win it all.” It’s a lie, and deep down we know it, but it’s a lie we keep hoping to attain.

Jesus says, “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Famous words. But it’s an offer I think we’re pretty slow to accept. We would rather continue in our sin, we would rather be our own little emperors or queens of the universe. We take the weariness, the burdens, inject it with some caffeine (or at least I do) and keep on.

But in a moment of weakness, in a moment of seeing that my stress is becoming insurmountable, I heard Jesus telling me that he wants to rehumanize me. He wants me to accept my limits. He wants me to rest well. When I’m tired, he wants me to sleep if necessary, breathe if helpful, stop wearing busyness as some badge of honor. He wants me to consider how good it is to have a balanced life, an abundant and full life only found in him.

I can’t even imagine responding to the question “How are you?” with “Balanced” rather than “Busy.”

It’s not that aspirations and goals need to be thrown out the window. They just need to be put in their proper place, under Jesus. If it takes as much caffeine and sugar as I consume to faithfully live out my calling to Jesus, then its more likely than I’m living out my own desires rather than his. Yes, Jesus will always call us to more than we’re capable of attaining, but that’s so that we depend on him and not ourselves, and certainly not our vices.

The change is obviously so much bigger than ditching an unhealthy habit. It’s ditching an unhealthy life. This is not about whether you can have coke or sour keys. It’s confessing false visions of humanity, it’s admitting that my heart is flawed. I want Jesus to shape every aspect of my life, and I don’t want to go through life through my own efforts, guzzling sugar as my gas. I have to admit that I have accepted a vision for life that is dehumanizing. I have to abandon the pursuit of “busy.” I want to be rehumanized. I want to go through life abiding, resting, and finding wholeness in Jesus. The equation I want to live by is this: tired equals rest. Tired equals abiding in Jesus.

Read more articles by Alastair Sterne or about Integrated Faith, Renewal.

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