I spent several hours yesterday doing yard work. I’m not through yet. There’s MUCH more to do. I usually love doing it, but before I decided to work on curating my life this year I let some things go for awhile and now I’m playing catch-up out there. You know how it is: the things you used to do in detail get taken over by some of the things more urgent.
At first, it seems like no big deal. So what if you skip grabbing a handfull or two of wayward growth as you head down the walk? It’s ok to take a break. It still looks pretty good. Maybe this time, I’ll just used the push-mower instead of the weedeater. Who’s going to care? It still looks great from a distance. It’s alright if you just hit the high notes this time…and it doesn’t look so bad as long as you keep on top of the big stuff with the riding mower, so you just do that for awhile. You know it’s been a bit since you did a round with the weedeater or clipped the spikes on the shrubs out front…and in the back, where no one usually goes, it’ll be ok if you leave that until later, right?
But…what happens when you keep doing this for longer than you ever thought possible? When it just becomes ok to cut a path through the woods to the door and your need to recover from what’s happening outside those four walls becomes something that makes you tired to even think about, much less put in the effort to keep up appearances…isn’t it ok to just let some things go?
Self-care is a lot like yardwork and dishes. It might not be such a big deal to let the side down every now and then, but eventually, things will come to a head and you’ll have a much bigger mess on your hands. I know very few people right now…wait…I know almost NO people who aren’t feeling the pinch and sting of dealing with all of the chaos, loss, and frustration of our current world disorder.
For many of us, it’s been simpler to pull inward and just focus on getting by the best we can with as little effort as possible. After all, taking care of family is more important that pulling weeds…or doing housework…or…any of a million other things like clearing our minds and breathing deeply, getting away from social media–and news media!–and doing things that we’ll just have to do again.
Some of us have chosen to fill our time and our homes with “more stuff” while try to wait for things to get better. We’ve looked for new feathers for our nest and new hobbies/interests for our minds and now we’re awash in “supplies”, but have little else to show for it. Others have taken the opposite approach and cleaned out with a dedication that looks admirable…right up until they’ve left themselves with little to bring comfort and nothing to see when you look beyond the surface…as if cleaning out all the reminders of who and what they’ve lost will somehow keep them from experiencing it.
No matter what compensatory efforts or avoidances we’ve tried, we’re still left with working our way through the consequences of a world gone haywire. For me, mine started long before the pandemic. I pride myself on being a reasonably smart person, but I left off more than just yardwork. I stopped taking care of ME. It may sound noble to some people, this idea of self-forgetfulness in serving others, but there’s a reason the airlines tell you to put YOUR oxygen mask on before you try to help someone else with theirs.
Eventually, you’re going to run out of steam…and oxygen.
I’m working my way through my yard again. I’ve been pulling weeds as I walk by heading to the mailbox and yesterday, I spent those hours finding all the roots that have made their way to the surface and caused several bent blades on my mower. Yes, there are more roots and they ARE making their way to the surface in some previously root-free areas, but at least a few of those bent blades they caused are because I simply thought I could make it work without taking time to do the prep-work. I came inside tired and ready for a cold glass of water. I had stirred up a considerable cloud of dust and yard debris clippings in the process of setting things right.
I also, for the first time in a long time, quit before the work was complete. I chose to stop when there was still more that could be done. That might not sound like much to some people, but it is definitely a step in the right direction for me. I used to work until it was ALL finished and I was exhausted no matter how long it took me to do so. These days, I’m learning to pace myself differently and pay attention to what my body is saying instead of just what my eyes are telling me needs to be accomplished. It may sound a little bit like what I was doing when I signed myself up for so many tasks that I started letting the yardwork go in the first place, but the motivation and the mindset are completely different.
As I came inside covered in all that grass and dust, I passed my open Bible on the counter. I’ve left it open to a passage in the book of Job for the past couple of days as a reminder not to get caught up in the details and my concern about when all of “this” will get settled. I can’t solve world propblems and I can’t make life easier for all of “my people”, but I can work on my own to-do list. I can take steps to make progress for others AND take care of myself in ways that are healthy and still challenge me.
The passage that caught my attention was Job 19:25 (CSB), which says, “But I know that my Redeemer lives and at the end he will stand on the dust.”
Can you celebrate that with me today? When all is said and done, when we’ve done everything we can and the dust is settled, God will still be standing and He’ll be standing on the dust.
No matter what constitutes “dust” for you today, remember that God is still in charge, He loves you, and when you’re through with the tasks of the day, He’ll still be right there being your Redeemer, the One who rescues you from things you can’t manage or straighten out on your own, the One who paid the price to set you free.
Grace and Peace!