Click here for audio version: Religion makes me tired
Have you ever overheard a conversation that was full of technical terms or proprietary acronyms that only reinforced the fact that this conversation did not include you? You didn’t know the terms or understand the references so you become either uninterested or annoyed that you have to hear the conversation at all. If you have the option you might put on your headphones and listen to music or get up and move to another seat or just leave. This happens to me all the time. I work in coffee shops a lot. Usually my headphones isolate me from such conversations, but occasionally my ears need a break so I remove them and attempt to keep working. The other day I was in a local coffee shop(not a national chain) and was inundated by the conversation from the table behind me. It was a conversation full of things that made me tired. It was contrived, formal and laced with industry specific jargon and self protecting disclaimers. No, it wasn’t a couple of business guys talking shop or two people discussing the current political climate. It was a conversation between a minister and a student. I couldn’t help but wonder what the other people in the coffee shop were thinking? Yes, they were talking that loud. Lists of rules for the imminent mentoring relationship as well as a barrage of questions that could potentially disqualify the student from the privilege of being mentored.
I’ve been a minister for over 30 years and I found myself becoming exhausted by this conversation that didn’t involve me. I wanted to put my headphones back on, but my ears were still sore and I felt like someone who was witnessing something horrible, but couldn’t look away. Religion apart from relationship and ritual without reality is exhausting. At one point the minister asked the student if there was a scripture that he had read recently that was meaningful to him. The student said, “Yes, Matthew 11:28. I don’t have it completely memorized, but I am beginning to get the feel for it.” I wanted to applaud and shout, “Thank You God!!” Jesus was addressing those who were heavy laden and fatigued by a burden to great for them to bear. The weight of religious rules without relationship and rituals without reality were certainly part of what He was referring to. The great invitation, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”, found it’s way into this exhausting conversation. Once the interview was over and the young man walked away, I wondered if my congregations, neighbors or friends had ever felt the way I did in this coffee shop after a message or conversation with me – exhausted. I packed up my things and drove home reminded that religion makes me tired, but Jesus is refreshing!