Friday, August 31, 2012

Running on Empty

"But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers” He lay down and slept under a juniper tree..." -1 Kings 19:4-5
The older I get, the more I realize how fragile and vulnerable I am. I'm not as strong as I used to be and my memory is, well, fading. It's humbling to admit that I just can't do as much as I used to do. I'm not whining or anything, just being honest. I just get tired quicker. But exhaustion is God's reminder to us that we're limited creatures. Whatever our age, we simply cannot run at breakneck speed and not bear the consequence of the craziness. God intended for us to depend on Him and have pace to our lives. If we choose not to (and most of us do), then our lives bear the consequence of the choice. My Trailblazer SUV has a 21-gallon tank and gets terrible gas mileage (sorry Chevrolet). But it does have 4-wheel drive and will carry a pretty good load. We always take Jeanie's Honda on trips because it gets great gas mileage. But when we helped move Elizabeth and family to Des Moines, we needed the SUV to pull a trailer. It was on the way back from Des Moines to Branson that we ran into a problem. We were driving south on I-35 south of Des Moines and we had about half a tank of gas. But there are a million exits between Des Moines and Kansas City, so we thought "no big deal." The longer we drove and the emptier the tank, the more uptight we became. Then, we finally saw a gas station sign and pulled off to fill our empty tank. As we pulled into the station, we discovered that it was closed! We pulled back on the Interstate and the dreaded red light came on the dash- "low fuel." There were no exits in sight! We prayed, held our breath, turned off the AC and radio (not really) and we hoped we'd see a sign or exit. Minutes seemed like hours and then, as we crested a hill, we saw it- A GAS STATION! We hurried to the station and pulled up next to the pump. Jeanie and I looked at each other and sighed. We'd made it. We'd survived! As you can tell from the attached picture, we made it by the "skin of our teeth" (I've never really understood that word picture). But it didn't have to be that way. We found ourselves in a predicament, but we were running on empty because of two choices we'd made before the journey. We didn't fill up when we had the chance. There was the option, before the journey, to fill up the tank and be ready for the trip. But we didn't exercise the option. Why? We were too busy or we figured we'd be able to make up for it later. But the best way to avoid being empty is to stay filled up when the "fuel" is available. We all need to take breaks as a maintenance tool, not as a survival tool. Take the vacation before the exhaustion sets in. Heed the advice of those around you (especially your spouse). Wipe the sweat off your brow and rest. We'd forgotten the load we were bearing. The Honda would have easily made it to one of the many stations in Kansas City. But we weren't in the Honda. We were bearing a heavier load. Apparently, Elijah forgot that too. He'd just defeated all those prophets of Baal and he was exhausted. He lost his focus and ran for relief away from God. The amount of "gap" should be proportional to the amount of "load." Yes, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" but Christ understands our limitation as humans on this side of heaven. We need to model pace and balance in our lives. And let God initiate when we're to "go" and when we're to "stay" and rest. He is not glorified by our exhaustion. Yes, we're limited creatures, whether we get good mileage or not. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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