What to Do When You are Exhausted
If you could have seen us, you would have laughed. There we were, traversing our way through the busy London streets, my ambitious husband and twelve-year-old son in the lead, my two daughters (10 & 6) meandering in the middle and me, the mom, following behind, keeping them in a line like a bunch of little ducklings (or maybe it could be better described as herding cats).
London was experiencing an unusual heat wave and there were people everywhere. We had braved the Underground, the double-decker buses, and walked for miles. We’d ridden the London Eye and played Frisbee in the park next to Big Ben. We had watched the Royal Mail pull up to the door of Buckingham Palace to deliver to the Queen. We’d played in St. James Park and sat next to the Lions in Trafalgar Square. We’d even managed to talk my youngest out of approximately 350 fidget spinners set right at her eye level by every street vendor.
It had been a fantastic day, but our legs were weary and we were beginning to feel gritty. Our patience was running a tad thin. On a whim, we caught the Number 15 bus to St. Paul’s Cathedral and walked up just as the bells began to ring as a call to their Evensong service. We slipped in as quietly as a family of five can. I’ll admit I was skeptical, not of the service, but of the wisdom in bringing our tired, impatient family in off the streets to sit through an ancient church service. I shot my husband a look and he grinned back. We decided to stay.
Light bounced off the stained-glass windows and danced quietly on the walls. The unfamiliar words of the choir drew me in, the beauty of the place tucked me in and brought a stillness to my soul. The contrast between the streets outside and the interior of the cathedral, which felt like sweet respite, could not have been more stark. I looked at the Order of Service and read,
“Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral is a tiny fragment of something else: it is a part of the worship which is offered to God by Christian people every hour of the day and night, in every part of the world.”
The kids, weary from all the movement of the day, also settled in nicely. Kate nestled her head against my shoulder and Eliza curled up on her chair. Soon they were both asleep, their breathing even and peaceful. My son fought to keep his eyes open, but gradually sleep won him over, too. I was tempted to force them awake, convinced they were too old to sleep during such a service. Instead, I watched them, something I used to do all the time when they were babies, but now am too busy to do.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
There are times in my life when God lifts the veil of earth and gives me glimpses of eternity. As I sat there, tears stung my eyes. I was dusty from walking and weary from parenting, yet here we were, with an invitation to join in worship.
“When you come to Evensong here, it is as if you were dropping in on a conversation already in progress—a conversation between God and his people which began long ago before you were born and which will continue long after your death. For a brief moment, you step into the continual stream of worship which is being offered today and which will be offered to the end of time.”
As I felt the weight of Kate next to me as she drifted deeper into sleep, an understanding washed over me. Worship brings rest into our souls. We’d come off of the streets, full of busy people rushing in every direction. We’d entered into the hushed, cool cathedral and the hustle ceased. It brought our souls rest. The continual stream of worship was like water to our parched souls. The reaction of my children was sleep. What an appropriate response.
My life is a brief moment in unceasing worship that began before the earth was formed. It will continue long after I am gone. And yet, I often feel a responsibility to take control, to be the one at the end, keeping everything in a perfect line. I get so busy navigating the busy streets, convinced I have to get every turn correct, that I don’t take time to worship, to rest.
“The primary purpose of Evensong is to proclaim the wonderful works of God in history and in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Its secondary purpose is to evoke from the worshipper a response of praise, penitence, prayer, and obedience.”
So, there I sat, watching Eliza’s curls grow damp, her head on my husband’s lap. And I joined in the conversation. I may never return to St. Paul’s Cathedral for Evensong, but I serve a God who is continually having a conversation with His people, a living tradition of prayer and thanksgiving. It’s a conversation I can drop in on any time of day, any day of the week, for the rest of eternity; it doesn’t have to happen in a fancy cathedral. When my heart is turned to Him in praise, penitence, prayer, and obedience, something holy happens—I find rest.
The service ended and we gently roused the kids. We sat there for a while as they slowly woke up until the volunteers quietly told us the Cathedral was closing and we needed to make our way out. The door closed behind us and the busy world met us again. But we were refreshed and rested.
And that made all the difference.
*Words with emphasis are excerpts from the St. Paul’s Cathedral Order of Service