I’m convinced our kids tag team to keep us awake each night. They have a highly intelligent, streamlined strategy. No one is awake at the same time and no one has the same reason for waking up. Instead, they determinedly pass an invisible baton to one another with an agreed-upon goal: take mom and dad straight down.
The other night, I heard crying from two different rooms. Brett and I slept with two monitors beside our bed. One for Owen and one for Ellia who, fresh out of the hospital still wasn’t able to walk well or get in and out of bed.
We went to Owen first where Brett fed and changed him.
Then Olive needed to be reassured monsters and elves aren’t real.
An hour later, Ellia cried. I went in and picked her up, carried her to the bathroom, had a slight panic attack that she’d regressed, then put her back in her bed.
I finally went back to sleep until something began hitting me on the face, like a rhythmic fly swatter. I woke up to see Olive beside me. Too tired to put her back in her room, I let her climb up next to me.
And then she kicked me.
In the face.
For two hours.
Until Owen woke up again.
I realized something that night:
I’m so tired.
I know. It sounds stupid or belated, but I’m just now noticing that I’m stressed. I’m exhausted. I’m edgy—not in the cool kid way but in the “I could either hug you or rip your face off” kind of way. I’ve felt like a crazy person functioning on a weird mixture of adrenaline, cashews and coffee.
I don’t know how to parent my four-year-old emotional wild card. I don’t know what to do with the inconclusive prognosis for the tumor in my 8 month old’s liver or his large amounts of abdominal fluid. And, I’m afraid Ellia should have stayed in the hospital another week for support care as her muscles struggled to rebuild.
And then there’s the normal stuff: the laundry and writing and teaching and fitness classes and basic cleaning and cooking to take care of. Other people have it together. Other people don’t forget to wear shoes or pick up their kids from school. Other people seem to think ramen noodles and leftover Halloween candy are poor choices for growing kids.
My body is tired. And so are my insides.
We think that when we’re this kind of tired that our only hope is a change in circumstances. Maybe I’ll get to a point where I don’t have three kids who need around-the-clock care. Maybe I’ll have more time to write if I can wake up early, make the beds and crockpot a dinner every night.
If only change would come—to my relationships, my anxieties, my past, my present, my job, my heart—then I wouldn’t be so tired.
Life would be less stressful if it were different. But anyone who’s lived for a second in reality will tell you it’s not true.
You don’t heal a tired soul by getting new circumstances. You don’t mend fatigue by obtaining what someone else has.
If you want to fight exhaustion, you need to rest.
I’ve learned that nightly sleep is holy—it’s the body’s way of renewing the mind, optimizing hormones, repairing the damage done during the day and preparing us for what we will do tomorrow.
We don’t repair our souls through change—we repair them through rest.
But rest feels stupid. It feels unnecessary or unproductive. We’d rather invest energy in appearances of success than the reality of grace. We’d rather memorize the correct answers than float in questions.
But we won’t be able to really live until we become people who really rest.
Rest is the antithesis of the struggle for control. It’s the place of surrender, the place where we wave the white flag, the place where we lay down so that we’re not so easily knocked down.
It’s the place where we’re honest about all of the daily hits our soul takes. It’s the place where we admit we don’t have the resources to fix our lives. It’s like a visit to the counselor, woman doctor and hairdresser all rolled into one. We sit. We feel the pain. We recognize running isn’t the answer. We don’t try to hold it in or pull it together.
We are dying to rest.
What would happen if we were brave enough to stop gluing ourselves together? What if we found rest by accepting frailty instead of trying to grow stronger? When we rest, we invite questions instead of avoiding them. We give up the power to fix and mend and change.
And it in this place that we ourselves can be fixed and mended and changed.
It’s when we put down our constantly wielded tools of defense and repair that we receive what our soul needs—love and grace and hope and mercy bigger than our mess. Somehow in rest we’re infused with strength, not necessarily to change our lives but to keep living them.
Rest. Hear the God-whispers above the shouts and yells. Close your eyes not to the struggle, but to your own attempts to control. And know that God is, indeed, God, even if your kids stay up all night.