It seems like I live my work-week and much of my weekends with stress at my side. The stresses and demands of the day often take me off task, they cloud my thinking, interfere with my quiet connectedness to God, they push and edge their way into my life very quickly and at the same time often push my relationship with God out of the picture.
While thinking about this during my prayer time one day this week a vivid picture popped into my head.
The picture was of a large pile of winter blankets, sort of like a big pile of laundry on the floor. Each of the many blankets represented different things going on in my life that day and at that moment – stresses about what to do next, calls that need to be made pretty fast, anxieties about money, noises around me, burdens of the day, obligations, thoughts, hunger pains….basically anything that I had on my mind. These blankets are large thick winter blankets. They are piled on top of each other. Some of the stresses are expected and others are thrown on at the last minute.
Sometimes I can feel a wave of stress come up inside me….it wells up and tends to overcome my senses and goals and needs at the moment. The stress builds and stays at a pretty high level during the day. I sort of thrive on it. I wonder why I crash and burn at 6:30 each evening on the couch and don’t’ want to talk to anyone….I need to decompress, relax. During the day some of the stress is released when I “check something” off my list, but the sense of the stress and pressure is there all day going up and down.
Under all the blankets is a small mouse.
His “peeps”, hard-to-hear sounds and calls for attention are, of course, covered and muffled by the blankets stacked 3 feet high. To hear the mouse I have to take each blanket off the pile. I have to literally pick up each blanket and throw them off. It’s not possible to simply try and listen more or read books on listening better in order to hear the mouse. Even when all the blankets are gone, I still have to sit quietly and listen with my ear near his mouth.
The stress has a sound in my heart. a LOUD sound. It is overwhelming in the noise it makes in terms of muffling out other softer sounds….like the sound of the mouse, the sound of God. The blankets, which represent all the stresses and demands of my daily life, the things on my mind, cover my heart, cover my soul, cover my ears to God, cover his voice.
Can God scream above the blankets? Of course He can – he’s God. But I think he wants me to come to the end of my rope, to tire of the same day-in and day-out stress and ask him why….to come to him and ask for help…to admit that I am addicted in a way to the noises, the urgencies, the list, the pressure….the blankets. Perversely, these blankets of stress and the demands of the day are like warmth to me; they keep me busy and I am used to them and they offer some kind of weird assurance. I need to get in the habit of relaxing, stripping the blankets off and falling into the warmth of God’s arms or sitting in his lap. I am convinced the stresses of this world can become a false god of sorts. Sometimes, we have to throw them off to get a clear fresh word from God.
When that happens…….when that happens……it is a wonderful, peaceful, clear, gentle, loving, strong, satisfying thing.
Matthew 11:28-30 says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”