My friend Kate looked kindly at me. “Rest is a good thing. God has created all of creation to rest. Day and Night. Seasons. Even the human body needs sleep every day. It’s God’s idea. His design,” she said.
“I know but it feels like I’m doing something wrong if I can’t do all I am supposed to do.” I said, my eyes stinging with tears.
“All I am supposed to do… Hmmm. Says who?” she said with a smile.
This conversation took place a couple of months ago. It became a catalyst for a life altering revelation from the Lord. What’s ironic is that He started the Rest conversation probably three years ago. I see now it is a growth area that He simply won’t stop talking about. Which means it is really, really important to Him, which means it is really, really important to us.
Lesson One: Years ago, a group of older women were laying hands on me and praying. Two of them kept saying that I didn’t know how to rest. In my highly spiritual state, I got offended.
Ding. First sign you are a performance junkie is to get defensive when someone tells you are too busy. I complained to the Lord as they were praying, “God I am trying to do all you have called me to. Are you mad at me? Is this not enough? Am I not doing it right?”
His response was to teach me how to “rest in the presence of the Lord.”
Revelation One: Rest means there is a confidence deep in our soul that God is with us, hears us, responds to us, loves us. This “resting place” becomes our starting point. Ground Zero. We build life on this foundation. All that happens good or bad begins with this one truth: God loves me completely all the time. When we settle this issue, what follows is a quiet assurance, a resting, in the our spirit. Otherwise we strive, worry, defend, blame, or run from God. Rest means we can’t run from Him. We are built on Him.
Lesson Two: Two years ago I was at the beach soaking in His presence. I asked God how I could maintain the richness of our connection once I got home to routines and demands.
“You must reorder your life,” He said, plain as day.
This comment created an awareness of how a) my stuff owns me, b) my to-do list, email, FB, and pleasing others is more of a priority than my God connection and c) my Drive-thru Christianity could not satisfy the deeper hunger in my spirit.
His response was to teach me how to surrender my ways to His ways.
Revelation Two: Rest requires, no demands, a deeper understanding of God. I like to think of myself as a God lover. But when God told me to reorder, I saw how Un-Jesus my life really looked. So reordering meant saying no to doing a 1000 things at once, purging possessions, risking reputation, forcing my schedule to serve me, instead of me being a slave to my calendar. Rest has meant truly “seeking first the Kingdom of God” and all the other things have been added. Or not.
I don’t want to blow past this. The Roman Empire was as busy as the American Empire is but Jesus maintained His peace and joy. He invites us into the same kind of God Life as we live our lives. We don’t get bonus point for being exhausted, nasty, booked-up believers. What pleases the Father is when we look like His Son. Period.
Lesson Three: All this brings me to a couple of months ago when I had lunch with my friend Kate and then dinner with my friend Dana. I told each of them about my exhaustion, my lack of motivation, even to be candid, my irritation. I didn’t understand what was happening in my heart although I had gone through this reorder and focus on the Lord. Thank God for godly friends. Through them, I saw that I had just completed one of the most outpouring seasons of my life. It was all done by God, for God and in God. But now it was time to… Really? They both said the “R” word.
Again? Still? I am still working on Rest? I saw that I had made great progress.
Resting place? Check.
Replenish? Uh, say what? I still had missing pieces.
His response was to teach me that rest is about starting, not just stopping.
Revelation Three: Rest isn’t just not doing things that cause stress or fatigue. It is about adding in those things that feed our heart, soul, mind and spirit. The word Sabbath came up in a brand new way. Not the living under the law kind of Sabbath. But a God-given breather, mini-vacation, refresher kind of Sabbath.
Let me ask you these questions. Try to write out your answers.
What do you do that makes your heart soar?
What brings joy to your soul?
What delights you?
What do you do that’s fun?
If you are like me, you might be staring dumbly into space. I had to discover these answers. But let’s suppose you can actually formulate answers, so let me ask you this. Do you do any of these on a scheduled, committed basis? Rest comes when these things are in place. Don’t have time? Then reorder.
Joy, delight, fun are kingdom words. They are child-like words. We don’t get points for being grown ups all the time. Jesus called us to become like little children. To laugh, to play, to enjoy, to be excited over the smallest things. This may be our greatest act of worship. Maybe that is why rest is so important to God. And to us.