Everyone prepared me for the exhaustion of parenthood. If there’s one thing you live and breathe and understand during pregnancy it is fatigue. And yet it is also the one piece of advice every parent provides from the other side: “Just wait. You will walk the halls at night. You will never sleep in again. You will be so very tired.”
Now as a parent I can tell you that it’s unsurprisingly true. I am tired. But I was also tired well before a baby, before the warnings of post partum. I was tired when I was pregnant, tired when I was training for marathons, tired when I was in school writing papers and stressing over things I can no longer remember.
Tiredness is so worn into us it no longer surprises us. But a baby comes into the world and for the first time we celebrate fatigue as a byproduct of something truly wonderful.
I realized in the first newborn months that when you have a baby, everyone suddenly becomes very concerned with your level of restfulness. People bring you meals and flowers and tell you that you look beautiful in your sweatpants. It is awesome.
Honestly, if I could be guaranteed an indefinite meal train in exchange for children, I might consider having a whole litter.
But soon children grow and maternity leave ends and life returns to a new kind of normal, a tired normal, except that tiredness is no longer celebrated. It becomes invisible again, ordinary again.
There are different degrees of fatigue, varying shades of staying up too late or getting up too early. Tiredness is not a tragedy because it can be solved easily: sleep is always the solution.
But there is a threshold we sometimes cross in our too-tired days. It looks and sounds a lot like tiredness then it evolves into something much more. Fatigue left untreated soon makes a tired laborer a weary one, and when weariness sinks its teeth into your bones it makes you brittle, it makes you fragile, and most dangerous of all, it makes you numb.
Weariness is different than tiredness. Where tiredness can be remedied passively with a nap or mindless television, weariness requires active combat. It takes work to recover.
A few weeks ago, I realized that I had crossed the threshold. I was feeding my weariness with tiredness solutions: television and social media and snooze-delayed sleep that didn’t rehabilitate at all. I had the urgent desire to check out at all times, not because I was depressed, but because I felt vaguely overwhelmed by all things. I was restless, but not productive. I was bored, but not motivated. I was mentally asleep while physically wide-awake.
I thought I was tired, but I was actually weary. I was worn out from activities that drained my most expensive resources: my motivation, my creativity, my emotions, my faith. I had habitually exported them without nurturing or cultivating them, scraping and scraping at the bottom of the barrel because I was convinced I didn’t have the time or energy to refill it.
All along I knew what I needed to do to recharge. I needed to engage. I needed to have an active conversation with my husband instead of a passive one, to put down my phone, to read my bible with focused curiosity, to write something new, to make my brain work for more than trending Facebook topics.
I needed to get active instead of passive.
Finally I got to work on the hardest part: the start, the opening line, the conversation that began with an abrupt question. I started when I didn’t feel like it. I awoke instead of pressing snooze. I went back and forth to the Creator praying again and again, “Remind me what you created me for then give me the grace to do it.”
This is what I’m doing right now. Present tense. I’m writing. I’m praying. I’m asking for grace.
I’m convinced that tiredness, not weariness, is an inevitable symptom of everyday life.
Although we may be tired, we do not have to be weary, but it takes a fight. It requires the exchange of passive engagement for active pursuit.
We are enforcers of a kingdom come, designed to create, to produce, to innovate. We are the pathways through which an inexhaustible Creator distributes His boundless creativity.
When we come to Him with our empty, weary buckets He gives us grace fitted to our exact dimensions. He wakes up the weary ones and tells them to take heart. There is life abundant available at the source. All human-shaped barrels are invited to come and fill.
This is the present-tense, grace-hungry narrative of an active pursuit.
I know I will be tired tomorrow when the alarm sounds. I’m staying up late tonight to write, not so much for you, but for this restless, weary brain of mine. I needed to stay up and shout it awake.
Tomorrow I will celebrate this fatigue as a byproduct of something truly wonderful, because tonight I collaborated with my Creator.
Matthew 11:28-28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”