Perhaps it was another end-of-the-year party, a night with two events when there was only time for one, another recital, or that last round of signed papers that broke this mother’s back. May had kicked me to the curb. I was exhausted and limping across the school year finish line. I was short on all the “virtues” I had in August when school began.
I remember the book Chicken Soup for the Soul and all the variations that followed. There was a book of soothing stories for every sort of soul: the teenage soul, the golden soul, the dog lover’s soul, and even second helpings of these titles. They promised heart-warming stories that further inspired better living. I (pun intended) ate up the teenage soul version, but from what I remember, these books encouraged action, some sort of pep talk to reach higher, try harder.
For a parent in a season of weariness, this kind of encouragement is short-lived and can often feel condemning. To me it feels like a reminder that I am not measuring up, an admonition that surely I can handle that situation and do better if I just try harder.
And usually I do try harder. But I always end up in the exact same place: tired and frustrated, overwhelmed by my circumstances.
Jesus, however, offers us something totally different.
In his Gospel, Mark tells us about when Jesus walks on water (Mark 6:45-52). This is a miracle in and of itself, of course, but what he is walking towards, and what he does when he arrives, is what speaks to this tired mother.
Jesus tells the disciples to go in a boat ahead of him while he goes up on a mountain to pray. The disciples encounter adverse conditions – “the wind was against them” – and Jesus notices this. He walks on the water to the boat, and it scares the disciples. Mark writes, “But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.” (Mark 6:50)
Jesus moves towards the disciples who are distressed. When he gets there, He doesn’t get into the boat asking the disciples to have better faith, or to be better sailors. He simply comes to the disciples and says, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Similarly, Jesus moves towards us in our various circumstances, as he did to the disciples. This story in Mark tells me that Jesus, Immanuel, or God With Us, is making the move towards me, even when I am overwhelmed and short on my good deeds. I can actually take a deep breath again because Jesus is the one making the first move.
Jesus came to earth to save his people. He approached us, a weary world, and presented Himself on our behalf. His is a welcome respite and surrender when the world around me seems to only ask me to be better, be stronger, and do more. When my strivings cease in light of the deep love of Christ, I actually find the rest for which I long.
May will always come back around. Circumstances will continue to present themselves as too much for me to handle. I am reminded of the hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” As the disciples gazed upon Christ walking on the water to them, I, too, can gaze upon Christ and his life given for me, and the storm that I’m in, the season of weariness, does indeed grow strangely dim.
And for a weary mother, that is the best chicken soup for her soul.