Forcing things rarely works.
As a mom of three I’ve tried my hand a time or two at forcing things to happen. Forced feedings when the kids were younger, as if that one last bite of green beans I shoved into their clenched mouths would somehow push them over the edge into the category of perfect health. Forced quiet time, which usually just resulted in me going into their rooms and reminding them over and over again to be quiet until they would fall dead asleep 5 minutes before we needed to be somewhere. These days, I find myself forcing my middle child to shower, as though the shower itself is some sort of medieval torture chamber designed to inflict pain upon him. I do not understand the physical aversion he has for clean water.
I’ve tried forcing my kids to quit fighting, to not pick their nose in public, to brush their teeth, to do their chores, to practice their instruments, the list goes on and on. I’ve even tried to force fun within our family. We will do this activity and it will be fun, understood?”
But, as many times as I’ve tried to use force to cause a change in my children’s actions, it’s rarely been successful long term. Sometimes it works temporarily, but rarely does it stick.
I love the words in Matthew chapter 11 where Jesus asks the question “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?” (MSG) Every time I read this I find myself answering with a resounding “Yes!” I think every mom who reads those first two questions feels the same way. Yes, we’re so very tired, we’re worn out! But I love how Jesus sneaks that last question in there. “Are you burned out on religion?” Why is He following with this question? Because He knows that forcing things, just going through the motions without our hearts being truly connected to it, will never provide the outcome we’re looking for. Just being religious will never give us the true rest and freedom our souls crave. Jesus tells us in verse 28-30 “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” Have you ever heard anything more alluring in your entire life?
The verse goes on to say, “Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. 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.” Just reading these words fills my heart with hope.
The freedom that Jesus offers us is found in the unforced rhythms of His grace. It is found in His presence when we keep company with him. It’s also something we have to learn; it’s not something that comes naturally. Honestly, following rules and checking off boxes comes much more easily. We like to say to ourselves, “There, all done.” while God is saying to us, “Here, just come.”
A prayer: Father, help us to quit forcing things and to start living freely and lightly in Your unforced rhythms of grace. May we not look to religion to give us rest, but may we recover our lives as we live in relationship with you. Thank you for Your promise that as we walk with You and work with You, You will show us how that looks. Our hearts crave the real rest that only comes from You.