Too Tired to be Holy

Do more, be more, spend more, thank more…

Will Ryan / 1.10.22

I don’t know about you, but even this early in the year I don’t feel particularly holy. 

Instead, in many senses of the word, I feel tired. I’m tired after a hectic Christmas season full of leading worship services, a (non-COVID) sick kid, and all the traveling that comes with visiting family around this time of year. Add to that the self-improvement drive New Year’s brings to finally lose those 15 pounds I’ve been meaning to lose resulting in getting up at 5 AM to plop down on a rowing machine and it’s anyone’s guess as to why I’m physically tired. 

I’m also tired of all the negative news out there in the world. Maybe it’s just our living in a 24-hour news cycle and having access to events across the globe instantly, but it feels like right now there is a heightened sense of languishing. Suffering and pain come in an instant, but there has been little reprieve for a while now. We instead seem to be stuck in a holding pattern of wait and see, but the waiting seems to never pay off. So I’m emotionally tired. 

Finally, the religion of the world has me tired out. Do more, be more, spend more, thank more. Try as I might to insulate myself from the demands of the Law, they seep their way into my life without even my noticing. I end up feeling like I’m never measuring up–not enough people are coming to worship services, we aren’t doing enough to support the community that desperately needs it, or I’m not visiting my members enough. No amount of time spent in prayer seems to be helping assuage the anxiety, so I’m spiritually tired. 

Add the three up, and I’m simply too tired, exhausted even, to be holy. I’m more concerned with making it through the week than whether or not I’m up to snuff on the holiness grading charts. Maybe you feel the same way too. 

Of course, this is probably just par for the course of human existence. Jesus’ entrance into the world was into a world of exhaustion — parents tired by an arduous trip and expectant prophets tired from keeping their eyes peeled for any shred of hope. Even Luke’s lone childhood story of Jesus is one of the precocious 12-year-old tiring his parents out after an extremely high stakes game of hide and seek for three days in the city of Jerusalem.

It’s remarkable how often Jesus seems to grow weary from his life of itinerant preaching, healing, teaching, and miracle-working. He tries to find a deserted place to be alone time and time again. After healing Peter’s mom and the rest of the town’s sick. When he cleansed a leper and brought him back into the community. After his apostles came back from their mission in the countryside. After he predicted his passion. 

In reality, it only seems that once Jesus’ ministry made its final turn toward Jerusalem that the theme of Jesus’ tiredness seeps into the background. He is stern, setting his face toward the city that kills its prophets to fulfill his calling. But then on the eve of the fateful day, exhaustion comes back in full force. 

I can only imagine Good Friday is just one long day of Jesus being tired. Tired because he was up all night praying. Tired because he was dragged back and forth in a makeshift and ramshackle trial. Tired because he was tortured. Tired because that’s one of the things crucifixion was supposed to do to a person — string you up until you’re too exhausted to pull yourself up for a breath. 

Jesus was as tired as a person could be, but that did not stop him from doing what he was sent to do — die on behalf of and for the redemption of sinners. And by the Cross, where Jesus’ offered his body for our forgiveness, we are given Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus imputes to us the holiness of God, his holiness. In other words, we are made holy by Jesus’ own exhaustion. 

In the end, being holy isn’t a matter of passion, determination, or grit. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired or not. It’s not about making it through the holidays, continuing to fulfill my New Year’s resolution, or finally getting some sleep. Being holy isn’t contingent on me at all, in so far it is a result of something I do. Being holy is a gift given by Jesus, who knew just what it was like to be dead-tired — literally. 

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