Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash
“Don’t we wish we could fix things once and just move on?”
Twirling around to face my co-worker, I voiced my thoughts over our humming office printer that was already in need of repair. The brand new machine regurgitated copies of the documents we fed into it, printed in color, and sorted as it should. The problem was the constant low rumble it elicited throughout the day, for no apparent reason.
While the noise baffled me, I had to laugh as well. Even the newest gadgets don’t operate perfectly. In a highly-mechanized environment like our office, something will always need to be fixed.
This episode at work got me thinking how the same expectation flows into nearly every part of our lives. We want to fix things, other people, and ourselves––once and for all. We want resolution, finality, the relief of crossing things off our to-do list. We want the satisfaction of attending to a need and moving on.
Certainly, many things we do are meant to be completed. Projects at work have deadlines, volunteer commitments expire, school classes yield to summer vacation or graduation. But what about the areas in our lives that aren’t “one and done” accomplishments? What about the areas in our lives that require our attention and effort—even our devotion—every day?
The relationships we form with family and friends require our attention to remain healthy. Processing emotions like grief, joy, anger, fear takes time and intentionality. Even on a practical level, our homes reveal numerous responsibilities that must be repeated. Our landscape needs to be managed, rooms painted, laundry folded, dishes cleaned.
It’s no wonder that most of us crave to just be done with something. Our daily lives are filled with so much that remains unfinished, and frankly, it bothers us. We are left feeling helpless and overwhelmed at times, propelling some of us to charge ahead with caffeinated determination to “get stuff done.” Others of us collapse under the weight, sapped of motivation, and tell ourselves, “the work will never be done, so why even try?”
* * *
In the midst of our flustered desire to just get stuff done or the temptation to give up, I want to offer us an open space of hope. It is not a secret place I have carved out myself; I offer only what I have been given.
And what I have been given is the grace to begin again.
To begin again reminds us of who we are (and therefore, who we are not). We are finite, flawed human beings created from the dust of the earth. To face the responsibilities of our daily lives is to encounter our humanity and our limitations––things that often make us cringe and squirm rather than rejoice and rest. But friend, these realities are by design.
The whole of our Christian life, our entire journey of discipleship, is characterized by beginning again, and again, and again.
One of the places of “beginning again” in our life with Jesus is prayer. Author Kathleen Norris describes prayer as a constant new beginning; it is a discipline that starts again and again and again. It is an act of faith as we daily entrust our concerns to His care and timing. Understanding prayer as a continual, repetitive practice has resonated with me these last couple of months. It is a discipline that intimately reminds me that I need Jesus, that my daily living matters to Him, and that the pain and heaviness weighing on my heart is not for me to shoulder or manage but to cast upon Him, in prayer.
Lines from a hymn I sang as a young girl come to mind––
What a Friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
I admit, for many years I thought of prayer more as a duty than “a privilege,” and I struggled to uncover what “needless pain” I wasn’t letting Jesus carry for me. With skewed naivety, I thought I was doing God a favor by carrying my own burdens; He had other things and other people to take care of. But as I revisit these lyrics, their truth is refreshing. As troubles, grief, and pain have been woven into my adult life, I see a beautiful irony emerge. The presence of deeper grief and greater need in my life has not only pushed me to approach God in prayer more often, but to also experience His mighty ability to carry what I bring to Him. God has no “quota” for how much we lay at His feet and how often we come to Him. In our lives of discipleship (that are anything but static), we will face new joys and sorrows that Jesus wants us to bring to Him, again and again—not simply to “give God an update” but to draw us ever closer to Him.
When we turn to Jesus, we see that beginning again in prayer is not a mere ritual but a necessary aspect of our relationship with the living God. In times of thanksgiving and anguish––really at all times––Jesus understood the necessity of coming to His Father in prayer. Our human limitations were not foreign to Him. To accomplish our redemption, He became human, living in the context of our weakness, and carrying out His earthly ministry in our 24-hour days. He knows exactly what it means to hunger, to thirst, to be weary, to repair broken things, to have hard conversations, to love when it is not reciprocated. He had many things to carry to His Father in prayer!
At the same time, Jesus wasn’t stuck in a perpetual cycle of unfinished business. Being fully God, His mission here on earth did find completion. Our salvation was accomplished once and for all through His death and resurrection. Jesus meant what He said when He cried out from the cross, “It is finished” (see John 19:28-30). For all who believe, sin and death no longer separate us from the love of God.
In a profound way, it is because of Jesus’ completion that we, His followers, can begin. We have new life because of His sacrifice, and we are given grace to learn from Jesus every single day, becoming more and more like Him over the course of our lives.
Whether we enter God’s presence with praise and rejoicing or fall before Him with grief and lament, may we believe this is true: “what a privilege it is to carry, everything to God in prayer.” May our craving to “just be done” with something, to fix an issue and move on lead us back to Jesus again and again. In moments when bitterness is tempting or frustration flares up, may we yield in prayer to the One who is sovereign and in control of all things.