Matthew 11:28 has come to me over the decades when needed so I pay attention when I read the words Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying burdens, and I will give you rest. This gracious invitation by Christ slows me down and makes me want to sit quietly for awhile with my head on his shoulder. Just breathe. Stop. Completely. Rest. Let go. Nuzzle into my Friend and be. I need that deep rest that only Jesus can provide. In contemplation, I can feel his arm slip around me and draw me close. The burdens lift and I am calmly content there. I have everything I need right there.
When I awoke this morning, I was without electricity. A storm overnight had knocked out power in the early morning. It would be another hour before the electricity would be restored. I tried to snuggle back into sleep but to no avail. I could not find rest. I checked email and there was another friend who was checking in as to what side of the boundary line she was on. I was surprised once again that she had to ask. For the most part those who are responding with understanding do not need to worry. They are my core people who will have access until the end. My mind wandered through thoughts, trying to grasp exactly how someone will know on which side of the line I am drawing that they are.
I realize this is becoming a heavy burden for me. What helped this morning though as I tossed and turned in bed, still hoping to find a few more minutes of sleep, was acknowledging that after my former pastor passed away, everyone believed that he was their close friend. At one point, in discussing this with someone else who had lost a popular person in her life, she confessed the same bewilderment as I did–maybe our relationship with the person was not as unique as we had once thought. Yet, this did not ring true for either of us. I knew this person to be well-loved by her friend and I knew from comments that had been made to me that I was close to my pastor. In an email once, he wrote to me, You know my heart. That is not a blanket statement he would have made. People simply loved him and wanted to be his friend. He would have made them feel loved.
What does that mean to readers who are my friends but do not really know where they stand? I have no easy answer for you. It is not the length of time that we have known each other or how often we see each other. I have people in my life that I am still getting to know that have access to me more than long time acquaintances. Some friends I see once a year and they mean the world to me. Part of my decision-making process is about how tired I am after I am with someone. Have they taken my energy or given me a boost? This does not mean that I do not sometimes leave good interactions tired–that is unfortunately the nature of this illness. I am referring to what people do to my spirit. A conversation which is stimulating, thought-provoking, non-judgmental, and punctuated with some laughter, rejuvenates me. I want to have more interactions like that. A one-sided monologue about the other person’s issues can drag me down but not always. I still want to hear what is going on for other people and share the good, bad and ugly.
What it is then that puts one person on the inside of the line and another on the outside? The other day I got together with a friend of 30 years and had a delightful couple of hours together. We went to Adoration together and sat nearby each other but not together. We gave each other space yet I would say that we were also yoked together on some level, making one other’s burdens lighter. I suspect we instinctively knew that at some point we had prayed for the other person’s needs. Afterwards, we went for a quick sharing time and then went on our way. In our friendship of three decades we have not always maintained contact. In fact, it is only recently that we have reconnected, so why do I feel yoked to her? I think the answer for me is that the relationship seems to be mutual. The giving and taking can shift but a neediness is not present.
I have been trying to see another friend for months now. We cannot seem to find a date that works. It is complicated because of our comings and goings but she is another person who I feel at home with when I am face to face with her. She is heading off for a bit and I am soon gone again too so I feel a little sad that we won’t be seeing each other until much later. Yet, I sense I am yoked to her too. She was one of the people who visited me in the hospital. She had access. Here too, I know the relationship is mutual.
How do you know if the relationship is mutual? For me, it seems like a common sense assessment but I am beginning to realize that is not the case. The curse of having nurtured so many friendships is that I have little time to see everyone if I am to take care of my needs. It is a blessing to be in this situation but because of who I am, I feel burdened. I write this with some trepidation as I may sound egotistical and may be misunderstood. I also know that I risk people not reaching out now because they do not wish to add to my stress. This creates anxiety because, as I said, it is often the very people want to see, that completely comprehend and offer to step back. A number of acquaintances are on my to-see list when I can stick around the city long enough for a visit because I enjoy my time with them. On the other hand, I also still, in my rescuer moments, want to make people happy and avoid hurting anyone. The best solution I have come up with and have utilized recently is to tell people–you have full access to me–as much as you want and we can coordinate. The opposite is harder–I cannot spend time with you right now. I might suggest that if you are unsure of where you stand, to simply ask and receive the answer, whatever it is, with grace.
The trouble, of course, is that I have no idea how much time I do have. If the doctors are correct in their prediction, I am halfway through the survival rate I have been given. As I have said, I plan on outliving that expectation, in which case I may eventually have some time for the wider circles in my life, for people I still care about but yet find it hard to balance when I need to put myself first. My energies need to focus on practicalities and final life projects–some of which are solo ventures. This means I will need time alone to work on certain tasks but it also means honouring myself, and learning to come to Jesus when I am weary and let the rest go. I know that most of you will understand that and I am grateful for this. I encourage those of you in my outer circles to stay in touch with me in other ways. I read all my messages and snail mail even if I do not have time or energy to respond. I am grateful for your presence and prayers, even if it has to be at a distance. I carry each of you in my heart.
Public events are a great way for everyone to share a few moments with me. I love short, meaningful conversations as I always have. For those who are on the cusp, who bring me joy and comfort, I hope to see you all as much as I can too. Those who are getting to know me better and who I take new delight in, the door is not closed for you. For my inner circles reading this, I hope you know who you are and that you are deeply loved and appreciated. I look forward to spending quality time with you in the months ahead. I thank everyone for trying to understand this burden that I continue to carry. Some day I will have clarity, but until then please forgive me and have patience.
How do you know if you are in someone’s inner circle of loved ones?
What burden do you need to bring to Jesus?
Dear Jesus, I want to sit quietly with you more and more. I need to find this time to yoke myself to you and simply rest. This journey can be arduous on many levels. Help me make the time to be with you so that I have the energy I need. Amen.
Hi Suzanne. Just today I agreed to meet with wonderful friends but I should have listened to the voice inside me that craved solitude and rest. I’m thinking of designating at least one day a week, or maybe two, to having no commitments or visitors. I recently read a post by a man with cancer. He said he doesn’t like the imagery of “battling” cancer (you wrote on this topic as well). He said he prefers to think of it as a pilgrimage. I like that metaphor. And when on a pilgrimage we need a lot of quiet time to reflect. I hope you continue to find ways to deal with the burden of saying no or “not today” to friends and loved ones. It’s something I’m working on too. Thanks for the post and all the best.
Hmmm…a pilgrimage eh? Interesting metaphor. I am going to think about that. You are one of the people I would like to see sooner than later…or at least call. I will message you soon.
Sounds good! Would also like to connect whenever the time works for you. In person or by phone or email all fine!
Yup, thanks for being flexible.
Hi Suzanne. I too find it hard to balance visits with friends and loved ones with my need for solitude and rest. I recently read an article by a man with cancer. He talked about not liking the words “battling cancer” or “fight against cancer”. You have talked about this as well. He said he preferred the metaphor of a pilgrimage. I like this. We know that a pilgrimage can be arduous and that we need focus and reflection time. We are somewhat “apart” when we journey as pilgrims. And it’s sometimes hard to line up our pilgrim journey with the need to be “social” with others. I find it easiest to spend time with those who seem to journey with me. It’s harder for me to step off from this pilgrimage for too long. Take care and best wishes.
Oops! I thought my first response didn’t submit! I see that t did :).