Stretched-thin. Weary. Burdened. Busy.
How would you describe your Monday?
Sometimes I feel a little like cell-bound Paul. “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you” (Philippians 2:17). Paul heard a lot of grumbling in and out of his cell. Times were hard. Life was unfair. Christians were expected to honor a demented leader. Paul pulled the “jail” card. Though his brothers and sisters suffered injustice on a daily basis, Paul was chained and confined. Why did they not rejoice as Paul rejoiced?
I once heard someone say that it’s a good thing Paul was jailed so frequently. He certainly was too busy to write epistles when he was free to travel and preach. Even so, jail must have been a maddening experience for a passionate man like Paul. And who can speak to the depths of the persecution he endured?
Paul felt “poured out like a drink offering,” – stretched thin, weary, burdened, busy. I picture an overflowing glass of red wine emptied over a hot, burning sacrifice. The beads of red liquid sizzle and evaporate. It is a holy and yet exhausting image.
But the word “pour” strikes me as significant. In 1 Samuel, Hannah kneels at the altar and mouths a prayer. When questioned by Eli as to her sobriety, Hannah says, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15). The same image surfaces in my brain: a wine glass poured painfully out until it is emptied.
The image evokes scenes of Christ’s death. His blood poured out painfully until the work is finished, until redemption is completed.
It wearies me to consider my to do list. The job is never done. There will be more to do tomorrow. There will always be more to do. But my focus is all wrong. Jesus says His burden is easy and light. We must keep our eyes fixed on Him, not our earthly obligations, to keep our perspectives light and heavenly. And when we feel poured out and stretched thin, we must do as Hannah does at the altar: we must pour out our souls to the Creator. It is better to empty our hearts of trouble and worry than to reach the point of utter emptiness and depletion. And we must consider that to be emptied of ourselves in order to be made holy is the point of our salvation. What beauty!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that even as I feel “poured out” on the altar, You invite me to pour out my soul to You. And thank you that when You empty me of myself, You are making me holy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Photo Credit: Michael Reavis Photography, Swan Crests Sunset