Adrenal Fatigue, part 2 [Tribal Wives and the Problem with Modern Christians]

In case you missed part 1, you can find it here!

I left the last post hanging because I need to share what God exposed me to for the last year and a half, before I explain the next layer of my sin. If I just hop from explaining the first sin to the second, without explaining the growth in the middle, it might not be as impactful to someone else as it was to me.

I’ve shared this a few times on Instagram, but I’m fascinated by other cultures and time periods. I want to know what they eat, how they cook it, how they raise their kids, how the family unit functions, how the community functions, etc, etc. I don’t feel like it’s a coincidence that this intrigues me so much, in hindsight God fanned the flames of this interest of mine at the perfect moment in my life. I think it was about a year ago that I posted on a FB group [if you can’t tell from previous posts, I do this for almost anything I’m interested in!] about resources for this topic – where can I go to learn more about these aspects of other cultures and time periods? The feedback was amazing – If you want the list I received, contact me and I’ll send it to you! There was one response that immediately grabbed my attention though – a documentary series from the BBC on YouTube called Tribal Wives.

Each episode is about a different woman from the UK traveling to a different remote tribe around the world and living in their village for almost a month. Each woman has the same purpose but a different reason for wanting to go – she’s looking for answers in a particular struggle in her life and hoping to find clarity through the tribal life style. There was a former alcoholic who felt defined by her past, a woman who was hesitant to commit to marriage, one who was divorced and struggling with loving her kids as a single parent, etc. At first I was just watching out of pure fascination, the show is not Christian based at all. I ogled over what they wore, their traditional food preparation, how hard the women worked, how they raised their children, etc. But I couldn’t get it out of my head.

One thing you need to know about me – it typically takes me a looooong time to process things. I’m a thinker but I’m also stubborn in many ways. Andrew will call me out on sin and it will usually take weeks to months before God completely opens my eyes and roots the sin out of my life. As I meditate on what’s burdening me [whether it be something Andrew said, a blog post that got to my heart, a quote from a book, or something Emery said] I think about it for hours, days, weeks, months, and sometimes years. God reveals scripture to me, prompts others to bring it up in conversation, leads me to other sources of wisdom, and on and on. God works through onion layer after onion layer to fix the root of my heart rather than allow me to put a bandaid on the problem. So after I surrendered my obsessive control to Him in July and I thought all I had left to do was heal my hormones, He was using Tribal Wives to prep my heart for the next sin layer to be removed.

But here’s the thing about the show – it made my heart ache.

Every episode left me discontent; something felt missing from my own life. I would think about it constantly while I worked each day, not able to put my finger on it. I felt like an unbeliever who’s gained the world but still feels incomplete. There was a longing in me that I couldn’t explain, but I have Christ, so why do I feel this way?

I spent several months like this, watching and thinking, watching and thinking. After a few episodes, Andrew started watching it too and I saw the same discontentment creep into him as well. We were watching woman after woman crying, realizing the emptiness in their own lives and seeing them experience a peace in these villages without Christ. While it wasn’t peace that passes understanding, that you can only receive through salvation, something was different.

Every day, in each village around the world, the women would get up before dawn. They were working as a team but each had their own responsibilities. One or two would cook, a few would clean, a few would care for the animals. They would share the load of gathering food, water, and other resources. They worked the land. They cared for the men and children. They reminded me of the hard working Proverbs 31 woman but HOW they did it is what got to me.

They worked slow.

Hard, but slow. They knew how to pace themselves. They relaxed and had fellowship at lunch. They often relaxed in the afternoon, doing each others hair before it was time to start dinner. They were the hardest workers I’ve seen but also the most relaxed. They knew how to read their bodies. They knew how to keep from burning out. They walked slowly. They did what was essential and no more. They sat at the end of a hard day and just laughed with each other. They went to bed when the sun went down. They knew how to work but they also were content to just be. They worked hard and they rested hard. Not one of them was ever flustered. None of them ran around frantically scrambling to get things done on time. They never talked endlessly about all the things they needed to get done. None of them stayed up burning the midnight oil to catch up on their responsibilities. I have never seen a group of people so hardworking, yet relaxed, peaceful, and joyful even in Christian circles.

I couldn’t get it out of my head as I spent each day tackling my house, kids, and cooking alone. I couldn’t get it out of my head as put meaningless crap back on my shelves for the millionth time, wondering how much time I wasted cleaning things I don’t need instead of resting. I couldn’t get it out of my head as I was up until midnight cleaning my kitchen and putting away laundry. “You mean there are people in the world that don’t do it this way? This lifestyle is all I know. I don’t know how to run a home like these people run their village. Granted I’m working alone all day, but still. How do I apply their restfulness to my life and still fit in with our culture?” [i.e., I need homeschool books, toys, etc to teach my kids. The tribes didn’t seem to do school, but in our culture I can’t neglect that aspect of my kid’s lives.]

I kept watching and thinking. Watching and thinking.

The biggest thing I started wrestling with was wondering how much the American culture actually blemishes my Christian views. Where does one begin and the other end? Is my heart so clueless about what a biblical life looks like because I’m so blinded by the busy American culture? Are the majority of the Christians living the modern life doing it all wrong?! Are we unintentionally pulling each other down by naively still living like the world? Am I so blinded by my high-speed culture that I can’t even discern what isn’t necessary in my life? Am I too blinded to even identify outright sin issues? I don’t want to be an American Christian. I want God and nothing else. Have I let my culture muddy my spiritual life?

I’m a believer whose life has been ransomed by Christ. So why is it that I am regularly neglecting the Great Commission while running myself into the ground to get unnecessary things done? My sin of obsessive control caused me to drain my body of energy. The obsessive control over my life pushed me away from Christ. It kept me from seeking out the Lord. It took away my time from fellowshipping with believers. It took away my time from investing in unbelievers. And I’m sitting here watching unbelievers who know that what I’m doing has no value in life. They haven’t given their lives to God yet, but they certainly have one thing right that I don’t.

There’s a sermon by John Piper that I heard several years ago [still trying to find it online so I can link it up] that I haven’t been able to forget. He talks about the importance of rest. God designed our bodies to need rest. We are supposed to sleep, supposed to relax, supposed to rest in Him. Rest isn’t a sin, it’s a necessary part of our design – God even created an entire day for it. When was the last time I actually honored the sabbath?

Just to keep it real, here’s what goes through my head when I think about Sundays:

“Doesn’t that sound nice? How wonderful, a whole day of rest that is a gift from God. Ok, every Sunday I’m going relax and rest. It’s biblical. I’m going to calm my super charged body down and it’s ok. Guilt free, I can do this!” 

So every Sunday, one of two things happens.

Scenerio #1:

We get home from church, feed the kids, and put them to bed. I remember my vow to rest but it lasts all of 15 minutes. I run around getting things done, sit on the computer researching, or work on projects around the house. Then I crawl into bed kicking myself for not embracing rest and my adrenal fatigue continues to plague me. 

Scenerio # 2

We get home from church, feed the kids, and get them in bed. I keep my vow to rest by collapsing on the couch and proceeding to veg all day. I sit on my phone, I scroll through pinterest, I catch up on Instagram, I watch a chick flick. And I crawl into bed wondering why I don’t actually feel rested. I feel just as tired as I did this morning, I don’t understand this whole rest thing. I didn’t do anything all day but I’d be just as tired if I had busted my butt getting things done AND I’d actually have something to show for it. In the back of my mind I subconsciously decide God must not know what He’s talking about when He says we need rest. I don’t think rest really matters. If it did, surely I’d feel different afterward? My adrenal fatigue continues to plague me.

 

Clearly I’m not winning at this so what’s my problem?

 

In scenario #1 I flat out didn’t rest. That’s my problem. In Scenerio #2, I relaxed but don’t feel rested. Is God wrong or am I missing something? God is never wrong. Any struggle I have in my life is due to MY wrong view of God or MY wrong view of His instruction. But why do I keep spinning my wheels? Why can I not figure this out? What am I missing? I can’t heal my body of adrenal fatigue with either of these scenarios – neither of them is getting me anywhere.

Here’s the thing God finally opened my eyes to: I don’t actually know how to rest.

It finally clicks that this is what bothered me most while watching Tribal Wives. None of their rest revolved around technology. Their rest revolved around relaxing their bodies but engaging with others. I don’t know how to do this. Like, real talk, I don’t know how to relax without distracting my mind with technology. I’ve never really thought about it but I can’t do it. If I choose not to work, my default is technology. If I choose not to be on technology, my default is work.

After thinking this over for months, I truly believe the American culture has trained me to respond to resting on Sundays with the same two scenarios. In scenario #1 I’m driven by the underlying belief in our culture that if I’m not doing it all, I’m lazy. I have to keep moving constantly to even remotely keep up with the demands of my lifestyle. I feel like a hamster trained to run on the wheel and I can’t figure out how to get off without feeling like a failure.  

 

And then scenario #2 – if you are going to rest, our culture believes that technology is where it’s at.

Is this not the epitome of being of the world? You guys, are you getting this? This gives me goosebumps. I am called to be IN the world, not OF the world. There are some things that are a non-issue – an unbeliever and I can eat pizza together and that doesn’t make me of the world. Eating pizza is not a sin issue in and of itself. But when I don’t know how to rest like a believer, I’m acting of the world.

Rest like a believer?

Rest is a gift from God. God has made it perfectly clear to me recently that rest is not a sin, laziness is a sin. Which got me thinking, what’s the difference? I have a general idea but the nagging feeling He’s put on my heart has left me wondering: 

 

Am I indulging in hours and hours of laziness and trying to claim it as rest? What IS biblical rest?

 

As I’ve started pondering this question I can’t help but think of David in Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Take a minute and read that again, thinking of adrenal fatigue, tribal wives, and modern Christianity. No really, slow down and read each and every line.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

When was the last time you didn’t “want?” Isn’t that what drives us, with adrenal fatigue, to exhaustion and depletion? We want and we don’t have so we go, go, go. We push harder and harder and harder until we have nothing left to give, which honestly ignores the whole gospel. I’m not supposed to be able to meet all my needs. I can never, ever have all the earthly things I want or the perfect circumstances I imagine. But without meaning to, I’ve let my culture overrule this truth in my mind. I’m deceived that He really isn’t enough. That I have what it takes. Goodness, just hop on pinterest and search inspirational quotes and you’ll be bombarded by colorful, creatively doodled quotes of deception. I don’t have what it takes. Adrenal fatigue proves that I don’t have what it takes. I’ve given 143973% and still failed. Instead of throwing myself into a sobbing heap on the floor that I can’t achieve all that I want, I need to fall to my knees and praise the Lord that He is enough. I need to replace my pride with humility and acknowledge that even though my future is secure in Him, I still need Him to be Lord of my life. He’s not fire insurance to be put on a dusty shelf, He’s the one who should fill my cup daily and bring me contentment despite not having all I think I want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

This is where I’m really ashamed. And convicted. I read this and imagine myself relaxing in green pastures. Relaxing beside a calm river. But if I’m honest with myself, if I were really, truly doing that, my soul wouldn’t feel restored. You know why? Because I would be laying there thinking about all the laundry in my hampers. I’d be wondering what time I needed to leave to make it to the store in time. I’d probably spend a good chunk of time on my phone. Mmmm, doesn’t imagining that make your soul feel so restored?

You guys, this scares me. This is a big, huge, fat problem. David is describing His soul feeling restored in the Lord and I can’t relate. I’ve read and heard this verse a million times but my sinful, energizer bunny brain doesn’t even know what this feels like. What have I been jipping my heart and my body from in thinking that rest from TV was enough for me? That’s like feeding my body processed food and watching it slowly break down with disease – my body wants the real thing. It wants REAL food. Why is my soul any different? In my pitiful attempts at rest, I’m feeding my soul To-Do lists and social media when it needs CHRIST. My adrenal fatigue is starting to make a whole lot of sense. For me personally, adrenal fatigue is a reflection of my spiritual condition in the same way diabetes is a result of diet choices.

I’m sick to my stomach.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Hmmm. HE leads me? All I can remember from the last 2 years is ME choosing what I would and wouldn’t do each day. Granted I let go of the obsession but I still need to make decisions, right? But why am I not praying and asking God for clarity over my decisions? As my eyes are being opened to my lifestyle, I’m convinced that everything I choose to do in a day isn’t what God would have me do that day. Even reading my bible has been a battle for me, which is a whole other animal I’m not sure I want to get into right now. Suffice to say that I don’t know how to turn my brain off for very long, to be able to focus on what I’m reading. Getting into the Word is short lived at each attempt and always results in me bringing the focus back on myself and my day because “things just need to get done,” right? And paths of righteousness? I’m not sure that my choice to watch TV [that I didn’t consult God about] could be justified as righteousness. Or taking it a step further, while being a skilled home maker is an honorable and biblical thing that would be considered “a path of righteousness,” what if this too is muddied by our culture? How much time am I unnecessarily playing home maker, cleaning things I shouldn’t even own to begin with? Am I doing things that are a waste of time and claiming it as righteous? Who could I have been sharing the gospel with or loving on instead, during that time I spent sorting through piles of papers? I never saw a Tribal Wife sort through papers. And who’s name sake have I really been doing this for??

 
So, back to that “Put Off, Put On” list from my first post, I need to put off obsessive control and put on on rest in the Lord. Not just relaxing to rest my body, but resting my soul in the Lord. I used to think I knew what that meant, but I realized I was confused.

You know how you can hear something a million times but it never sinks in? How many times have I made the cliche comment to someone that I pray they’ll find rest in the Lord? How many times have I prayed it for myself? Every time I prayed for it and it calmed my nerves or fears about something, I felt like I had achieved rest in the Lord, but you know what I’ve realized?

I think I was confusing peace for rest.

I’ve found peace in the Lord many times, but I honestly don’t know that I’ve EVER found rest in the Lord. Primarily because I don’t think I know what it really means. I can’t heal from adrenal fatigue if I don’t know how to rest. And so far all the resting I’ve done has been futile because it’s been without God. I want to experience the soul restoring, life giving, breath of fresh air that I can only get from rest in God. 

 

So, in the next post, I want to do a few things:

  • I want to dig through scripture about laziness and compare it to scriptures about rest. I need this truth to saturate my heart. I need to be able to call out my misplaced guilt when I’m resting, to speak truth to myself when I hear the world’s voice in my head telling me I’m a lazy bum for not working harder.
  • I need to dig through verses to discover what rest in the Lord really looks like. I’m heavily convicted that I need to discipline my mind to not wander during my time in the Word and my time in prayer. I think I fall prey to the culture’s constant pull toward over stimulation – I need to train myself to be ok with focusing on one thing. I need to discipline my mind to relax and my body to truly rest.

I cannot tell you how excited my over-tired body is to be seeking out genuine rest in the Lord after battling this for so long. The world cannot give me rest. The world does not have the answers to my problems. I sought my strength out in the wrong places and am so very ready to calm my stress as I find rest in the Lord.

 

If you’re struggling with this as well, I highly encourage you to watch Tribal Wives! None of the episodes are connected to each other so you don’t need to watch them in order. I’d love to hear what you take away from it and any other wisdom you have on this whole topic. I’m encouraged by you all every single day and can’t wait to hear what God’s teaching you as well!