Butterflies in our Fair City

The pastor stood in the pulpit of one of our churches last Sunday and gave a perfect description of what stress does to a body.

“I was going over my calendar,” he said, “checking on dates and places. And then I saw something that caught my attention. A month earlier, I had an appointment to speak at a certain place. And I realized that I had forgotten it. I failed to make that appointment.”

Every preacher knows that fear. That’s why we live and die by our calendars.

He said, “There was nothing to do but to call the brother who invited me and apologize. I got him on the phone and told him what had happened. I told him I have no excuse. I just forgot it. I hope you will forgive me. There was a long pause on the other end.”

He continued, “Finally, the man spoke up. He said, ‘Pastor, you came. You didn’t forget. You spoke to our group. I distinctly remember what you said. You had just come back from the Southern Baptist Convention and you told our group why believing in the Bible was so important to you.”

The pastor said, “I couldn’t believe it. How could I have gone there and spoken to that group, and now not remember a single thing about it.”

Someone reported that to me, so the next day, I mentioned it to him. “This is all about stress, isn’t it.” He admitted that it was, then told me of the circumstances that had filled his life with stress to the breaking point at that time.

My friend Cathy Pate, medical doctor from Charlotte, North Carolina, comes down to New Orleans occasionally, and when she can, she always wants to go to church at the First Baptist Church here. She says, “I could listen to David Crosby for hours. He is the kindest soul and best preacher I think I’ve ever heard.”

That little introduction is to lead up to David’s latest newsletter which he has just sent out over the internet. It fits with our subject here, so I’ll quote the entire thing. And I’ll skip the quotation marks, if you don’t mind. But everything that follows is from Pastor David Crosby of FBC-New Orleans.

Emotional exhaustion is settling upon many of us. We have fought long and hard to reclaim our families, our homes, our companies, and our lives. And now we are just about to drop.

I have read that a great race horse has so much heart that he will run for the jockey until he kills himself. The jockey riding a great horse has to be acquainted with the physical limits and protect the horse from his own determined will.

So maybe it is time to stop and drop. You don’t have to drop hard, and you don’t have to stay down long. But for the sake of everyone you love, you have to take a breather.

I think that is why the account of creation in the Bible records God resting on the seventh day. We are made in the image of God in that we can initiate, innovate, communicate, relate, and correlate. But he knows we do not have unlimited stamina. So he stopped to rest and hoped we would pay attention.

Sometimes we refuse to stop and drop because we are in crisis mode. Our lives are incinerating, and we are running without thinking. The ‘stop and drop’ instruction works when your clothes are on fire. You should not run then. You should stop, drop and roll.

It also works when your mind and heart and emotions are on fire. You cannot outrun your racing mind. You will run yourself into the ground. And that will not be good for anyone.

I can hear your thoughts churning. People are depending on you–important people like children and spouses and aging parents. You are a caregiver every day. You are the chauffeur, the nanny, the nurse, and the maid.

You are the sole provider. You generate the only income stream. Everything goes south if you stop producing. Everyone depends on you.

All the more reasons to stop and drop. Warn the people around you. If they truly care for you, they know that you are approaching your limit. They may already be urging you to take a break.

Listen to what they are saying. The rat race will be okay without you for a day or two. You will not fix everything that still needs repaired and recovered in one fell swoop. We are in a 20-year marathon down here on the bayou, and we have to move out of crisis mode and into a sustainable pace with appropriate breaks.

The stress of this mess is straining the most important relationships of life. The mountain of things yet to do seems overwhelming. Sometimes we fear that we are just digging futilely at the edge of the pile. Frustration combined with futility will wear out any hearty soul.

Stop and drop. It will give you a new perspective on life in general and the pace of your own personal recovery. It will increase your energy, lower your anxiety, and bring your world into better focus.

After all, everyone on the planet is recovering in some way. We are all ‘getting over’ troubles of some kind. We cannot postpone love and life and recreation until we are fully recovered. You can see where that would leave us.

This week I examined a butterfly with two of my granddaughters. It danced through the yard and landed on the tiniest lavender blossom. We sneaked up close, faces pressed together, and watched it feed on the pollen. We noticed the amazing pattern of bright colors on the perimeters of its wings. We studied it upside down and right-side-up until it noticed us and flitted away.

Now that was a moment when the cares of the world were suspended. It didn’t last long enough, but it reminded me how good it feels to stop the spinning wheels of my mind, drop to my knees, and enjoy a moment of beauty and grace.

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