It seemed as though the common theme today was “I’m tired.” Lee and I said that to each other almost as soon as we woke up. Oakley mentioned it before breakfast. None of us were quite so sprightly jumping up into the back of the pickup truck to ride to the church. Whether we were moving block or building walls or painting rooms, everything seemed to go a little slower than yesterday, with more comments of “whew, I’m tired!” mixed in.
There’s a reason for that, of course. This was our third day straight of hard manual labor from 7:30 in the morning till 4:00 in the afternoon. And this for a group who, mostly, are not accustomed to hard manual labor as a daily occurrence. We’d all been operating at about the top of our curve for days in a row, and we were all, in one way or another, feeling our limits.
There is a rhythm to these Copan trips, a rhythm that was worked out from experience early on in this mission work. The first Tuesday is the traveling day. Wednesday is the first work day. Thursday is the “now we know what we’re doing” day. Friday is the tired day. Saturday is the free day. Sunday is the worship day (with a free afternoon!). Monday is the next-to-last working day. Tuesday is the last working day. And Wednesday is the travel home day. Every day has its own character.
And all together these days make up a nice arc of activity. We put more working days before the weekend break, so that we can crest the arc quickly and not feel rushed in the final days. The weekend serves as an incentive and reward for working hard the first three days. Monday and Tuesday we feel rested, recharged, and ready to make the most of the remaining time. And Sunday anchors it all with the worshipful reminder of the reason we’re all here in the first place. The rhythm keeps us going day by day.
So even though today was The Tired Day, it was still a good day. We saw how much had been accomplished our first two days, and that gave us confidence to do more. And knowing we would not be working tomorrow made it just a bit easier to wring out the energy reserves today. It was the rhythm that made the day go by.
Lots of things in life have their rhythms. Days may be good or bad, better or worse, rejoicing or depressing. But days don’t happen on their own: there are days before and days after, moments before and moments after, and it is the arc of activity over these moments and days that adds up to our real experiences. In every moment God gives us new possibilities to act in love and grace – even the most tired or depressed or tragic moment has its possibility for love and grace – and in each moment we respond to God as best we can. But the individual moments come and go, they become and then they fade away; what matters is how moment leads to moment in an arc of activity that bends toward God. And getting a sense of the rhythm of that arc is often the one thing that gets us through the Tired Day and on to something else.
Prayer has its rhythms, too, as moments of insight and moments of loss and moments of confusion and moments of deep communion link together, arising from God’s gifts of possibilities, and forming an arc of activity that bends toward God. Praying is a good thing to do on a Tired Day, to help reveal the rhythm that moves us deeper into life.
That was my prayer today. May there be prayer for you on your tired days, too.