One of the things I say a lot is that everyone is exhausted. I think that’s true. It may be, though, that no one is quite as exhausted as José Micard Teixeira…or, maybe, Meryl Streep.
Recently, a lengthy quotation attributed to Streep (but actually penned by Portuguese self-help author and life coach, Teixeira) started making the rounds on the internet. It’s a manifesto of sorts, announcing to the world a set of things he would no longer do. For instance, Teixeira says that he has “no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism, and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me, and to smile at those who do not smile at me.”
Exhausting Self Salvation
As I’ve said many times, the thing that exhausts us isn’t ultimately our schedules, our family demands, the expectations of others, and so on. To be sure, those things can be tiring, but they can’t cause the bone-deep soul exhaustion that we spend so much of our lives feeling. This profound exhaustion is caused by our self-salvation projects.
We all feel the stress to secure a sense of significance, to be approved, validated and loved, and we conclude that if we’re going to experience these things, we have to make it happen. We’re exhausted because we’re trying to save ourselves by generating our own value, significance, meaning and security by what we do, who we can become. We feel the burden to make it, to get it done, to impress, to earn, to succeed — because our very identity is at stake.
Do you think that if your kids get into a good college it will validate you as a parent? You’re probably exhausted. Do you believe that if you provide a life of comfort and financial stability for your family you will be recognized as a good man? You’re undoubtedly exhausted. Do you think that God’s love for you is dependent on how good you are? No one is more exhausted than you — except maybe José Micard Teixeira.
The thing that exhausts Teixeira is all the people around him trying to save themselves. He says that he will “no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate.” Of course, lies and manipulations are a major way we try to save ourselves…by calling attention to the failings of others. “I hate conflict and comparisons,” concludes Teixeira. Don’t we all? They’re exhausting!
Patience for only those deserving
In a heavy irony, though, his strategy of checking out, of no longer participating, is itself a self-salvation project. Trying to save himself from those who are trying to save themselves is only going to exhaust him all the more! There’s no relief in sight! He closes with this: “And on top of everything, I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” He is — in a roundabout way — pledging to spend his life judging everyone around him and then doling out patience only to those he finds deserving. Remember his pledge to only smile at those people who take the time to smile at him first? That’s judgment if I’ve ever heard it…and it’s so exhausting. I wonder if Teixeira would “spend a single minute” with someone who behaved this way, actively judging everyone around them all the time. I doubt it.
Searching for harmony
Teixeira is trying to create a peaceful life for himself. He’s desperately searching for harmony. He imagines that by insulating himself from the rest of the world, everything will be better. His problems, unfortunately, will follow him wherever he goes; his problems are inside. As G.K. Chesterton once said, “What’s wrong with the world? I am.”
Choosing to check out doesn’t work. We need a solution, not a better avoidance strategy. There’s one thing that is held in common between you in a crowded room, you sipping espresso on a quiet veranda in Italy, and you in sackcloth and ashes in a monk’s chamber: you! You cannot escape the thing that is truly exhausting you, no matter how many smiles you withhold. You are the thing that is truly exhausting you…you and all your self-salvation projects.
One way out
There is, however, one way out. It doesn’t have anything to do with avoiding “people with rigid and inflexible personalities.” It doesn’t have anything to do with surrounding yourself with those who “know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement.” It has to do with acknowledging the folly of self-salvation and desperately calling out for a savior who is not you.
Whether we’re a little-known Portuguese life coach, a world-famous actress, or just us, we’re exhausted. The only hope we have for rest is belief in one who has come — not to ask us to get to work — but to do the work on our behalf. Some of Jesus’ most comforting words are aimed specifically at the exhausted: “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, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Self-salvation is an intolerably heavy burden. Not only that, but it doesn’t work!
Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden light for one reason: he bears it. Salvation by another is not only available, but it has been accomplished and is now freely offered to you. Today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. That is truly good news for exhausted people like me who just can’t help but believe that if we work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter, we’ll find the peace we’re looking for.
“Just do it” won’t save you. “It is finished” does.
Tullian Tchividjian is a South Florida native, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, a visiting professor at Knox Reformed Theological Seminary, and grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. He is the founder of LIBERATE (liberatenet.org), a bestselling author, a contributing editor to Leadership Journal and a popular conference speaker. Follow Tullian on twitter at: @pastortullian