Running on Empty

Photo credit: Gavin St. Ours / flickr

Photo credit: Gavin St. Ours / flickr

Running on – running on empty
Running on – running blind
Running on – running into the sun
But I’m running behind

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don’t know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that’ll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave

Running on Empty – Jackson Browne


This first quarter of the year has been absolutely one of the busiest seasons of my life. Personally and professionally there have been tons of things going on: year-end reviews, HR metrics calculations, show rehearsals, parties, meetings, special church services, choir retreat, good dates, bad dates, travel…it’s been so busy that at times I have felt overwhelmed. And smack-dab in the middle of everything going on, we’ve had the church season of Lent.

Lent is supposed to provide us an opportunity to disconnect, reflect, and “spend time in the wilderness” before we enter the season of Easter. We remember and recognize the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness before beginning his three-year ministry.  It’s a season that allows us to re-focus and re-balance the things going on in our life. And ironically, for me, I wasn’t able to do any of that. Instead, I’ve been burning the candle on both ends and sometimes feeling like I’m just barely getting through. I am running on empty.

I feel like a Lenten failure.

And maybe I have failed. Maybe I haven’t. I certainly haven’t lived up to my intended Lenten practice of 30 minutes of yoga/meditation/intentional silence during these 40 days. But I know that ultimately my failure isn’t what it’s all about. No, it’s less about how I don’t measure up and instead about how God manages to show up and meet me right where I am at. Whenever I feel like I can’t go on or that I’ve got nothing left, I can’t help but be comforted by the fact that Jesus lived a full human experience, too.

This week for our Palm Sunday service we will celebrate the triumphant arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem. We will wave our palm branches. We will sing hosannas. But somewhere between this Sunday and next Sunday a whole lot of things are about to happen to Jesus. He will be burning the candle on both ends, most markedly during the night that he celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. Shortly after that supper, Jesus heads to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. It must have been late because everyone seemed to be exhausted. Matthew 26:39-46 reads:

 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

I’ve read this passage several times in my life, but this year I can’t help but relate to those exhausted disciples, dozing off in spite of the fact that their spirits wanted to keep going. I, too, am tired and it seems like I’m being asked to just keep going. I like to think that Jesus was exhausted, too. And stressed. And worried. And maybe, just maybe, expressing a little doubt. I know for sure that everyone seemed to be running on empty. And you know what? Even when I feel empty, I’m happy to know that I’m not alone. So let’s pick up our palms and run (or walk) together. And when we do, I have faith that God will find a way to fill us up.


You are invited to join us this coming Sunday, April 13 at 9:30 am at the Gandhi statue at Union Square West & West 14th Street for our annual Palm Sunday procession to the church. (Please note that there will be no Village Time this week so that class members can march with us.)

During the church service we will celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem to challenge those in power. Our Palm Sunday Worship will feature a dramatic retelling of the story of Jesus’ last week from the Gospel of Mark presented by renowned singer, songwriter, and dramatist Rev. Bert Marshall.