A while ago I wrote about rest. I wasn’t sure how it could be fitted in with the necessarily busy lives that many, particularly those with young families and/or elderly parents, lead. It seems foolish and impossible to suggest that people actually stop doing some necessary things in order to make space to rest.
And then my mum became ill. She had, early in the New Year, felt that God was asking her to take a step back. But she genuinely didn’t know how, given her commitments and the difficulty of finding anyone to delegate to. She raised this at her home group, not as an excuse for continuing as she was but as a plea for guidance from God as to what she should give up.
Soon after, she started losing the ability to move her right hand. Her left hand was also weak. As her job is in outdoor youth work, the loss of use of her right hand meant she couldn’t work. Someone who repeatedly refused to take sick days despite illness or holidays despite an accumulation of owed leave now had no choice but to leave it to her colleagues to manage without her car, her teaching and her presence. And guess what? They coped (albeit my sister had to be recruited to take mum’s place).
But mum’s paralysis didn’t stop there. It spread from her right hand to right foot, then left foot, left hand and on into her arms and legs. Over a period of three weeks, she went from a healthy, athletic adult to almost complete paralysis. It was scary, because all A&E would tell us was that it wasn’t an emergency so go away, but she was getting worse and we had no diagnosis and no plan for treatment, therapy or coping at home. We eventually got mum into a neurology rehab ward, but only via a private consultation and hospital stay. Once on the ward and with daily physio, mum rapidly recovered and regained almost all movement within a week.
When the paralysis was still spreading, mum had to stop doing other things as well. She couldn’t do any administration or logistics for the church. She couldn’t manage any charity accounts. She couldn’t go out to church prayer meetings or worship meetings or bible studies.
And they all carried on just fine without her.
Now that mum is getting better, she is praying about which activities to pick back up again and which to leave. Two of the charity treasury jobs aren’t going to be picked up; it’s up to the trustees now to find new treasurers. Other logistic and planning roles within church can remain delegated to other people. Where needed, new staff can be recruited to reduce reliance on any specific individual. Mum is able to start cooking again, so we no longer need church members on a rota bringing us food, but even if they hadn’t provided that we could have survived off jars of sauce mixed with frozen veg and beans.
The point is: when you simply can’t do something, you find that either other people step in, or the thing doesn’t get done but it’s not actually the end of the world. You are forced to re-juggle your priorities, and having got over that initial hurdle you discover it’s actually okay on the other side. Better, even – you have more space for the really valuable things, like time enjoyed with family; and you’ve built up new networks of support from the people who stepped in to help.
It’s difficult, letting go, and our excuses sound highly plausible – until we reach the other side, and realise that that’s all they ever were: excuses.
Come to Jesus, lay down your burden, and rest.