The noise in my own thoughts jarred me awake. The room was still dark as my husband lay sound asleep next to me. The concerns began to flood my mind as I slipped out from under the warm blankets. The comfort of the bed offers no consolation when my mind is tangling tighter and tighter in the dark thoughts of the season. I pulled the familiar robe around myself and closed the bedroom door gently.
Settling into my favorite chair, I could still hear the waves of thought crashing over the hope that daylight seems to dispel. My firstborn was graduating college in the spring and spreading his wings for the first time. My husband’s recent health crisis provided enough fodder to keep my weary mind busy and that doesn’t even begin to list all the other “small” concerns that have crept up into tense shoulders these days.
I opened my phone searching for an easy distraction. Scrolling and scanning in the blue light, I felt tightening in my body as comparison seemed to add to the weight I was already carrying.
Closing my eyes, I lifted my thoughts heavenward.
Lord, I don’t know what to do with all these burdens. I know I should rely on You and yet I don’t know how to lay these burdens down.
I’m already carrying them, came the whisper.
I opened my eyes to scan the room and ground myself to the moment. I didn’t want to miss His assurance, desperate as I was.
I wondered, What is the truth?
I reached for my Bible, knowing that the weariness of my soul could only bear fruit when tended, like a garden, by the Word. I opened to where I had been the previous morning, the book of Matthew, chapter 11.
For years I have consistently tended my soul like a garden by the Word of God, out of desperation to hear God’s whisper through His Word for myself, without the voices of others.
Spending the first two and half decades of my life as an atheist, left me unstable and tangled, desperate for stability. When I opened the Bible for the first time, it was for the purpose of disproving it; yet God removed the scales from my eyes and I surrendered to Him.
After years of getting to know Him and His Word through great teachers and leaders, I finally realized my dependency on those bible studies was robbing me of intimacy with God Himself.
If His Word was powerful enough to open the eyes of this once atheist, surely His Holy Spirit within me could open my eyes to intimacy with Him through His Word without the constant voice of others.
I developed the simple, four-part TEND acronym to guide me through His Word slowly, an expectant, leaned-in listening for His voice:
T: Take time to pray
E: Examine the scripture
N: Notice the lesson
D: Do what it says
As I sat in the dimly lit living room that morning, tangled in all the noise of my concerns, I already knew how to tend my soul in such a way as to lean close to the heart of God and find my stability there.
I opened my journal to the next blank page and set it next to the open Bible. The previous morning, I had tended through Matthew 11:25-27.
So I reread those verses and came to the reading for today:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30).
I refused to allow the familiarity to keep me from hearing and knowing God better through these verses. That’s the joy of the TEND method — it is a slowed down approach that allows space for the Holy Spirit of God to highlight truth in such an intimate way that we come away changed.
Remembering that the acronym TEND begins with T for Take time to pray, I paused and took a moment to intentionally pray. I asked God to open my eyes to the wonderful things in His Word.
Then for each of the three verses before me, I began to Examine the Scripture, which is the E in the TEND method. I slowly wrote each word from the verse in my journal. Looking back often to be careful to capture it correctly and letting the invitation therein begin to untangle the tightening thoughts I had carried into this moment.
Those last words of promise, My yoke is easy and My burden is light, felt like a balm to my weary soul in the moment. I took a deep breath and let the words cover me.
The next letter in the TEND acronym is N which stands for Notice the lesson. I asked, What is this teaching about God? What spiritual lesson is it teaching the original hearers?
I read and reread the verses. Jesus is our rest giver. Jesus carries a yoke and burden that is easy and light. I wrote these lessons down in my journal and I pondered and prayed. Jesus invites the burdened and heavy laden to come to Him.
I asked myself, who is the burdened and heavy laden? Before I finished the thought, I threw my hand up knowing I was burdened and heavy laden with noise and thoughts and concerns and fears. I had taken on a load that was not fit for me by carrying worries, rather than leaning on Him. Jesus invited His audience in Matthew 11 to yoke themselves to Him, the One with the easy and light burden. So, there is a burden. There is a yoke. We do have responsibilities, but they are well-fitted for us by Jesus. And the greater truth that was emerging on the page was that He was carrying it with me. He is yoked to me and able to bear the weight. He invites me to draw near and carry the easy and light burden of what He calls me to.
I scrolled the question briefly into my journal, what are my burdens that Jesus and I are carrying? I wrote as I prayed. Words like pray for them and lean on God by meditating on Scripture flowed out.
I knew He was asking me to release the worries and concerns and fears to Him. I knew He was offering me the easy and light burden of praying Scripture and meditating on truth rather than the weight of solving and fixing that which I had no control over.
I closed my eyes and exhaled. The last letter in TEND stands for Do what it says. In obedient faith I opened my hands palms up and named every burden I had been carrying. I then received His easy and light yoke. I yawned in relief.
Glancing at the time on my phone I knew I had a few more hours of sleep. Grateful for having set aside the tangling of the phone for the tethering of His Word, I set my Bible back on the ottoman but held the truth to my chest as I quietly slipped back into the bedroom.
Laying my robe aside as I had the burdens, I slid under the warm covers and easily fell asleep.
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