by Jenna Pulkowski

I have a confession to make. As I write this, I am so darn tired. And while part of that’s because I didn’t sleep well last night, another part is that everything around me feels like it’s always rushing. I live in Chicago, so there are always people, vehicles, and activity wherever I am. The pace of life doesn’t slow down for me unless I leave the city.

When I get so darn tired that my head and heart and body hurt, I usually get pretty grumbly. I get short-tempered with my spouse, who has also had an equally rough and exhausting day and needs me to be supportive. I get impatient with my friends who want to share their ups and downs with me. And I get crabby with God, too.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

This is one of the first pieces of scripture to come to mind when I feel this drained. God is calling us to God’s own self, to help carry the burdens and give rest. Jesus shares this promise praying his gratitude that God has revealed the beauty of the good news to those the world does not expect to be worthy. God invites us in to have a rest, to be refreshed and renewed. To be cared for, and to have time to care for ourselves.

It’s not just about self-care though, something with which I have a love-hate relationship. This is not to say that I do not love a mani-pedi, or a massage, or getting my hair done, but that I have come to realize this really isn’t what we mean when we discuss self-care–or at least not all of it. Yet practicing care of my whole self feels like just one more thing I have to do, one more thing I have to figure out and add to an already overwhelming schedule. Can’t just sitting in front of the TV with Brooklyn 99 or Parks & Rec, zoning out to whatever game I’m playing on my phone, be good enough self-care?

Add to this the oh-so-fun layer of having a chronic autoimmune disease that zaps my energy before it’s even had a chance to arrive, and well, I’m done with self-care, thank you very much. I simply do not have the time or energy to figure out what will make me feel better. Now give me the remote.

Psalm 34 is one of many psalms and passages of scripture that illustrate God’s response to those who cry out for relief. Each of its 22 verses winds its way around praising God, what God has done to elicit that praise, and how God’s response has changed things for the petitioner. God rescues the righteous, those who are in right relationship with God by following God’s commandments. When we take refuge in God, our lives are redeemed. We look to God and are radiant; we are never ashamed. Turning to God, we are renewed.

So I invite you, now or later, to turn to God, to spend time drawing yourself into the One who knows you, who loves you, who longs for your prayers, and desires to give you rest.

Take a moment to center yourself, to settle into yourself. What does that mean? For me, it feels like my middle aligns. From the crown of my head to my tailbone or even down to the soles of my feet, I can feel energy pull into my spine and settle down, even if it’s only for a moment. You may feel this differently. Your center may be different than mine. How you sit or stand or lie down may be different because our bodies are different. If you’ve never tried this before, it’s fine to say it’s silly and you’d rather not, or to be curious and give it a try. Do what you need to do right now.

If you’re trying this settling-into-yourself, here’s what I do. You might try it too. Next, after the energy is settled down into my spine, I think of an image or a place that gives me peace. Sometimes it’s the valley where I worked at my Bible camp, sometimes it’s on a beach by the ocean, sometimes it’s a little chapel with blue stained-glass windows. And as I picture my happy place, I let it wash over me. The peacefulness, the joy I felt when I was last there, and I bask in that moment. I do this until I feel ready to move on, breathing as deeply as I can comfortably manage.

And I talk to God, praying for the peace or rest that I need, asking God to help me.

Closing prayer:

Holy God, draw me into you, you who are a refuge in a time of trouble, you who bear my burdens and give me rest. Remind me that I cannot do it all. You are the Holy Three-In-One who shows us the way to be in relationship with you and with one another. Encourage me to release what I cannot control into your care. Shape me into a disciple who shines your light of love and care to the rest of your tired world, so that anyone who is weary and heavy-laden will know they can depend on you to relieve them. Fill me with your peace, your joy, your love. Amen.


Discussion questions:

1. How do you know when you are exhausted–mentally, physically, spiritually? Not just in need of a good night’s sleep or a nap, but something much more than that?

2. What are some things you do when you’re exhausted that help you to be renewed, refreshed, restored? Do they change depending on the sort of exhaustion you’re experiencing?

3. Do you have any particular scripture passages that are refreshing and renewing for you? Do you share them with others when they are tired and weary?

Jenna lives in Chicago with her husband and two fur babies. She serves as chaplain to the wonderful residents and staff at St. Pauls House, a long-term care community for assisted living and skilled nursing residents. If she weren’t working in ministry, she’d probably work in a coffee shop and talk about all things nerd-related–especially Harry Potter, Outlander, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. Oh, who are we kidding–that’s all she talks about anyway!