In a sense, our lives are a constant rhythm of depletion and renewal. This rhythm happens over and over again, several times a day.
We deplete our reserves of calories and so we feel hungry. We are renewed when we eat. And then we do it again.
We deplete our reserves of energy and so we feel tired. We are renewed when we sleep. And then we do it again.
We deplete our reserves of hydration and so we feel thirsty. We are renewed when we drink. And then we do it again.
These rhythms are so natural to us, so often repeated, that we don’t even think about them any more. We simply respond when we sense the depletion and then experience the renewal. When it comes to our souls, though, the process is less natural. It takes more conscious thought and intentional choice. And the reason why it does is because of our propensity to try and deal with the depletion we are experiencing using lesser means of renewal.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are in that daily rhythm. You have been working all morning, busy with meetings, agenda items, and to-do lists. You have been concentrating hard, and that concentration is interrupted by an embarrassingly loud grumble from your belly. You clearly have depleted your reserves and are in need of renewal. But instead of eating a sandwich, you lay down in the floor and try to take a nap.
Weird to think about, but in a similar way this is what we do all the time in a spiritual sense. We feel some deep need – some depletion – of our joy, our gratitude, our contentment, our peace, our whatever – and instead of recognizing that depletion for what it is, we misunderstand what we are truly feeling and look to some false or lesser means of renewal. We take a nap when we should be eating a sandwich.
Throughout the Book of John, Jesus makes several statements that that point us to the true source of renewal:
- “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)
- “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12)
- “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
- “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14)
- “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
- “I am the true vine.” (John 15:1, 5)
You can link each of these statements to some deep need that we feel. We feel dissatisfied. We feel lost. We feel afraid. We feel purposeless. We feel disconnected. And in each and every case, Jesus is the true source of renewal.
Why, then, do so many of us continue to feel those deep needs? Perhaps it’s because we have gotten in the habit of taking naps rather than eating sandwiches. Maybe it’s because we look to lesser or false means of renewal that really don’t help with that need at all. And perhaps the reason we are content to do that over and over again is because we haven’t yet come to the end of our rope.
That’s a phrase we’re probably all familiar with, but what does it really mean? It means that we have come to the point where we have no other options. We have reached a state of desperation. It means we can’t any longer settle for lesser means of renewal because we have tried them all and found them lacking.
Here, too, is a rhythm for us, but it’s a rhythm that can be cultivated. It can be grown in us, as a discipline, as we look deeper – past the surface level feeling and into the deepest part of our need. That’s when we find true renewal. That’s when we will turn to the true bread. To the true light. To the true way. to the true vine.
So today, friends, when you start to feel any of those things, don’t just take a nap. Look deeper. Don’t be afraid to come to the end of your rope because when you do, you’ll find the true source of renewal waiting there.