BY EMMY WATKINS
As I near the halfway mark of my service in Denver, above all, I am tired.
I get frustrated with myself for it. Why am I so tired? In college my days were longer, my commitments more taxing, and my schedule more hectic. Why is it that here it is so much harder to stay energized?
I’m realizing that I am mostly tired of being brave, though I feel disingenuous phrasing it that way. My job is not dangerous, frightening, or even inundated with exceptional emotional labor. I am not changing the world; I am not even changing my workplace. The courage I’m talking about is not grand or dramatic or noble. The fatigue I feel is from the dailiness of courage, of staying positive during a trying week. I’m tired of stepping outside my comfort zone; I’m tired of taking on new challenges when I’d rather avoid them.
I find myself shying away from this exhaustion, trying to find solace in other kinds of busyness--researching for jobs next year, planning trips with friends, Netflix, even housework. I am learning how difficult it can be to truly be present. This year will be over before I know it, and I will remember the fatigue and uncertainty and hard work with nostalgia. I don’t want to remember it with regret for failing to be present in the midst of all of it.
The fortunate thing about service with Loretto is that I have the space to sit in this tiredness, to reflect on it and to recharge in a few weeks at midyear retreat. I am privileged to be able to rest when I need to. In the pursuit of social justice, it’s easy to feel as though I am never doing enough, as though I shouldn’t be tired, but should be doing more, staying later, advocating louder, volunteering with other organizations. I am thankful to be a part of a community that acknowledges my need for rest and spiritual solace.
And as I acknowledge my own need for rest, I am reminded of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, one of the Bible verses almost everyone knows: “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV). I find myself meditating on how Jesus’ words sit in the tension between work and rest—Jesus calls us to take on a “yoke” but promises an easy burden and rest for our souls. His words remind me why I am here, and the kind of work God is inviting me to: work in which I freely give my best and leave the rest to God, and where I shed the pride of thinking that I can accomplish anything alone, or that the only results worth seeking are measurable. Work in which I am gentle with myself and others, and where I seek humility above success.
I have a long way to go, but I see glimpses of this invitation in my daily work and especially in those around me. In the teacher who spends her weekends planning field trips, in the athletic director who comes to organize equipment on her day off, and in the kind coworker who quietly drops his own work to help me, I see the reflection of Jesus and his humble heart. Despite my exhaustion, I find in these witnesses peace, and a desire to be more like them. I remember that the cure for this courage fatigue is not comfortability, but God, and the deep remembrance that Jesus is the vine and I am the branch; apart from Him, I can do nothing.
Emmy Watkins (she/her) grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, but left the south to attend Colgate University in upstate New York. After most recently living in San Antonio, she is excited to move to Denver, where there is snow! Emmy has a degree in English and Environmental Studies, and she enjoys reading and writing. She loves kids, cats, and deep conversations about faith.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.