Running on Empty

I was driving to the office the other day and heard the most annoying bell come from my dash board. Maybe your car doesn’t have a bell noise, but mine does. The bell tells me different things, usually calling my attention to the dashboard lights, but this bell is all too familiar. “Low Fuel.” It’s not enough that the bell has to ring when the fuel level gets low enough to register low fuel, but it has to ding every time I start the car, every time I level out after going down hill. It feels like it dings incessantly. After a couple days of hearing the woeful bell throughout the day (but not yet in my sleep) I remember making a comment: “I feel like I live my life on low fuel.” That’s when it dawned on me. I really do feel like I live my life on low fuel!

It’s not just that I get impatient with the frequency of the low fuel reminder, but I get short at the office, at the store, at home… pretty much anywhere. So often I feel like I’m running on fumes, trying to squeeze the last precious yards out of whatever energy, peace, patience, and kindness I have left dampening the inside of my tank. This particular time, I happened to be on my way to a meeting with a couple other ministry leaders and I shared my revelation. I was less than encouraged to hear that, to a man, every one of them could relate to living life on low fuel and running on empty.

Guys, this is a problem. I think we have a sense of loyalty to family, work, ministry, and duty that borders on—if not runs headlong into—idolatry. When we’re financially stressed because we’ve over-committed, stressed for time because we’ve over-committed, when we’re emotionally stressed because we give everything to “the task at hand” and have nothing left to maintain a proper attitude and spirit for our families, or even in our private times, then we’re doing something horribly wrong. If all our patience, kindness, and grace has become an act to hide how exhausted we are, then we’ve become hypocrites and it’s only a matter of time before that facade comes crashing down with some really harsh consequences.

Jesus got away from it all. He spent time every morning with His Father. He sent His disciples off to rest and eat. He ignored the clamor of the crowds and left opportunities longing so He could be faithful to care for himself and to stay true to His calling and purpose (Mark 1:35-38). Sure, there were occasions where he’d minister on with no thought of self-care (e.g. John 4), but these were occasions, not His habit. Don’t miss this: Jesus’ priority was His relationship with the Father, and His purpose and calling. We have a tendency to sacrifice the latter for lesser tasks—things “good” in and of themselves, but outside of how God is trying to lead us.

We need to learn how to rest, how to be quiet, how to say “no,” and even how to play (or recreate). We need to discern “good” from “best.” We need to be less driven after the pattern of the business world, and live more in line with Scripture which admonishes us to “be still,” to have a Sabbath rest, and to take what we need for self care (e.g. “don’t muzzle the ox while it treads the grain,” and “the worker is worthy of his wages”). We may need to surrender some things… or surrender absolutely everything, task-wise, and take back up only what God leads us to. We cannot live our lives on low fuel, running on empty and not more than one rash, half-witted decision away from disaster. Yes, there is grace. But why lean on grace for failure later when there is grace for success now? Why deprive the best things just so we can do “good” things? Finding rest will make us better men and women, better husbands and wives, better dads and moms, better co-workers, classmates, and neighbors. Doesn’t that honor God more than being “busy?”

Jesus is our rest. Learn to rest in Him so you can be all that God intends you to be.

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