Released From Pressure

Our lives carry on as if held down by a heavy weight, but God doesn’t want it to be that way.

Settling into the quiet on a frigid day, I had just poured a steaming cup of tea when I heard the raucous shouts of children outside my kitchen window.

Oh no! I thought. They’re sledding.               

I threw on my robe and went outside, inching across the icy deck in my slippers. Cupping my hands around my mouth, I megaphoned to the boys trudging with sleds up our steep hills.

“Kids, I’m sorry, but you can’t sled here. We have too many trees, and you might get hurt.”

Cheeks flushed, breath ghosting from their mouths, they muttered a disappointed, “Sorry,” and turned to shuffle home. I watched until they’d disappeared down our driveway. They didn’t lift their heads once.

 

Back inside the house, I started to cry, and my reaction surprised me. All the children had wanted to do was have fun sledding, but I knew I’d done the right thing. Why do I feel guilty? I asked myself. Why can’t I bear their disappointment? Grabbing my journal, I tried to untangle my thoughts. The more I wrote, the more I understood my feelings weren’t about the boys, but about me—about the little girl I had been, the one who couldn’t play.

As a carefree child, I’d played as naturally as I’d breathed. But when I turned 9 years old, I entered an accelerated school program, often requiring five hours of homework a night. During high school and college, my workload only escalated. As an adult in the workforce, I’d quickly advanced from administrative assistant to executive director and demanded perfection and endless overtime of myself. Like the little girl who’d spent hours hunched over a desk deciphering Shakespeare and battling algebra equations, I longed for relief.

The connection was staggering. I realized why I’d been joining colleagues for casual “playtime” at a bistro-bar. Tête-à-tête, glass to glass, we sipped our wine long into those neon nights as alcohol consumed my life. God calls this dangerous type of play “revelry,” an insidious idolatry He condemns. When God’s children, the Israelites, reeled in drunken revelry, dancing their golden-calf conga at the foot of Mount Sinai, God’s anger burned.

“Oh, Lord, I’ve wallowed in debauchery and sinned against You,” I prayed, “I no longer spend time in worship, prayer, and the Word. Please forgive me. Give me release from this relentless pressure. Show me what to do.”

Jesus never meant for me to bear the heavy burden of continuous work.

Desperate for God’s answer, I turned to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11 in The Message: “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. ... 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” (Matt. 11:28-30).

Jesus never meant for me to bear the heavy burden of continuous work. Just as He’d welcomed little children to come to Him, He was bidding me to get away for times of leisure, play, and rest. And little did I know, He would immediately give me an opportunity.

I looked up from my journal and gazed out the window. Winter draped the landscape like a sequined shawl. Lost in my thoughts, I remembered another snowy day: I’m 10 years old and striving to study on a Saturday. In an all-too-rare moment, my father offers to take me sledding. I hesitate. My school assignments pull me back. But Daddy insists, extends his hand, and I choose to go with him. We strap the toboggan atop the Studebaker and head to “Suicide Hill.” That afternoon, I forget my work as we fly over ice-slicked terraces, exhilarating in the freedom of the ride. I come home refreshed, cheered by spending time with my father. And my homework? It practically completes itself.

What a wonderful memory, Lord, I thought, as I cleared the kitchen table and got out my planner. My goals for this day were overwhelming. And now I was keenly aware of the connection between my alcoholism and workaholism. I shut the book and glanced back to the window.

Why don’t you get away and play?

“But, I can’t possibly do that,” I said aloud, “I have too much to do.”

But just as Daddy had so long ago, my heavenly Father beckoned. In a moment of inspiration, I bundled up, walked down our snowbound street, and rang the bell of the neighbor’s house, where the boys had gathered. The smallest boy opened the front door.

“What if you and your friends come over for hot chocolate?” I said, “We can roast marshmallows in the fireplace and play board games till dinnertime. It will be lots of fun, and safer than sledding in my backyard. What do you say?” Without the slightest hesitation, he and his friends accepted my invitation.

“But, I can’t possibly do that,” I said aloud, “I have too much to do.”

I didn’t have free time to play that day, and I never would have played with children. Normally I would have resented lost time, worked straight through dinner and into the night, and then downed a bottle of wine to unwind. But I knew how much my play-day had pleased the Lord. He was offering me a new way to live. He was offering me freedom. 

That night, I knelt by my bed, and made the impossible decision to stop drinking and curtail the long work hours that had led to it. I surrendered to God but told Him I couldn’t give up alcohol without His help. Though I struggled—often painfully—over time, I began to crave worship, Scripture meditation, journaling, reading, singing, art-making, and walking far more than I ever had. The more time I spent in God’s company, enjoying play that pleased Him, the more I sensed His pleasure and the more I received His strength. I haven’t had a drink since.

God has taught me how to live freely and lightly, and it’s the only way I want to live. I never want to succumb again to the destructive pressures that tempt me to drink. So whenever God invites me to play, I take His hand and get away.

 
Related Topics:  Gods Love

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28 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

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