CORAL GABLES, Fla., July 11, 2012 — Rest!
I cannot tell you how irritated I get when I hear this word. For years people have been telling me, “Kristi, you need to rest, you need to slow down.” Even during my prayer times, I sense God inviting me to “rest in Him.”
In my heart of hearts, I know I need to rest — mentally, physically, and spiritually — but for the life of me, I haven’t been able to figure out how. I’ve even studied “rest” from a Biblical perspective but I have trouble transferring this knowledge to life.
Recently, due to some unpleasant surgeries, I’ve found myself in a situation where I’ve had to slow down and rest physically. For a type A person, I’ve given physical rest my best shot. But this week, I realized that physical rest isn’t necessarily what the Great Physician has ordered.
Prior to my surgeries, I had booked a trip to the West Coast so my son could attend a two-week acting camp. Many people questioned the wisdom of taking such a long trip so close to my surgeries, but as a mom, I knew this was something I needed to do. I also knew that it would be an opportunity to get physical rest my body needed as I would have absolutely nothing to do in Los Angeles except chill out at the apartment while my son was at camp.
The funny thing is that even in a small apartment, even with no responsibilities, even with no interruptions, I have found it very difficult to rest. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve laid low, I’ve chilled out on the couch, I’ve sat by the pool, I’ve taken slow walks, I’ve even taken naps. But as I’ve lain around, my mind has still been hard at work creating things for me to do from the couch.
I have come to the conclusion that I have a disease… an “I can’t rest” disease. As I jokingly confessed this to a friend, I realized that I truly do have a disease: It is called DIS-EASE. I have dis-ease in my spirit and in my mind. Although I am lying around physically, I still have not found that place of rest mentally and emotionally.
During my first day in California, I decided to take a walk while I listened to some music and prayed. As I prayed, I felt the Lord saying, “I brought you out here to be alone with Me so that I could teach you to rest.” Crazy isn’t it? God had to bring me all the way across the country, away from my husband, other children, home, friends, and ministry to teach me to rest. Maybe next year He can take me to Hawaii, just kidding.
I wish I could say I have mastered the art of rest, but I haven’t. I do feel I’ve been a good student. Already, I have learned a few things about myself.
First of all, I’ve realized how hard it is for me to give myself permission to rest. Even when I head to the couch to rest my body, I find I always make sure my mind has something to do like read my Bible, work on a project, answer an email, or return a phone call. I realized that even in my time of physical rest, I still place myself under some “law” that I need to be doing something constructive (and spiritual).
To be embarrassingly honest, I’ve come to realize that I view people who do nothing as being lazy. Something has to be wrong with someone who chooses to sit and do nothing when they could be productive, right? As I Christian, I think I even subconsciously view “vegging out” as a sin. Surely we are called to constantly improve ourselves or “do” spiritual things, like read our Bibles and pray.
But throughout the week, I’ve realized that even in the midst of sitting still physically and filling my mind with good things, I still haven’t found that place of rest that God is calling me to. Why? Because I still haven’t found myself in Christ. Yes, I’ve found myself reading about Him and talking to Him, but I haven’t truly let go of my agenda and gotten still before Him. I haven’t accepted His call to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
A couple of days into my trip, God revealed something to me. After dropping my son off at camp, I made my way to a local bakery. As I walked up to the bakery, I was greeted by a handsome young black man who had squeezed himself and his belongings between two newspaper stands. From this tight corner, he smiled brightly as he greeted those who passed him by.
After spending an hour at the coffee shop, I made my way to the car. Once again, I walked by the man. He was just as full of joy as he was an hour before. I stopped and we spoke briefly. Based on his countenance, I asked him if he was a believer. That question sparked something within him that he couldn’t contain as he unashamedly began to talk about his Lord right there on the curb with an excitement and passion that is rare. This man radiated Christ.
For days I have thought about this man. I don’t know his story, I don’t even know if he was homeless. Maybe he was an actor just chillin’ out between the newspaper stands, I don’t know. The point of this story isn’t to make judgments on his life, but to reveal something I learned about myself through my encounter with him.
After meeting him, I kept asking myself the following questions: Why in the world was he on the curb? Why was he just sitting down between two newspaper stands? Why wasn’t he “doing” something? It bugged me! He had so much potential. He had good looks, he was smart, well spoken, young, strong, charismatic… Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. In the midst of this man’s “doing nothing” (as I would describe it), he possessed the very thing I had been trying to attain in my “acts of service” for the Lord.
“Where’s my joy, Lord? Where’s my peace?” are two questions I have continually asked. “How can this man who seemingly has so little be so full of joy and peace when I, who as the world would say, have so much, feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and never quite enough. We both know you Lord, as our Savior. What’s up?”
He has shown me that the answer lies in our willingness to cast our cares on Him. Joy and peace are found in our willingness to rest at His feet. Kind of sounds like the Mary and Martha scenario from Luke 10:38-42, huh?
Upon studying the word “rest”, I have found two interesting facts. First of all, the word in the Greek is a verb, it is an action we consciously choose to do. Secondly, “rest” can be defined as a decision to “take my ease.” Whose ease? God’s ease.
“Give me Your ease, Lord, so that I can move away from my DIS-EASE of not being able to rest!”
What does it mean to take His ease? I believe it’s coming to a place where we, as another definition says, are “absent of our own efforts”, both mental and physical. It’s coming to a place where we cast our cares (our worries, fears, troubles, agendas) on Him, where we truly put our life in His hands rather than trying to control it with our own.
How do we do this? It starts with realizing this vital truth: God loves us simply because we are His children. When we realize God’s love for us isn’t dependent on what we “do” or what we “become”, a burden is lifted and we find rest.
The Bible says before the foundation of the world was laid, He knew us and He loved us (Ephesians 1:4). Isn’t it amazing that God loved us before we ever did one thing in this world? It isn’t our perfect attendance at church, reading our Bibles every day of the year, or abstaining from watching anything other than Christian television that makes God love us. He can’t love us any more or any less than He already does. It isn’t our actions that put a smile on God’s face, it is our faith, our trust in Him (Hebrews 11:6). When we understand His love and trust it, we find rest.
I believe this man has found such rest. He knows God’s love and trusts His provision and it is there that he has found joy, peace, and purpose. It was there that he is able to reflect the glory of God from the corner of a bakery shop.
As I think about it, this man was “doing” something after all. He was doing what we are all called to do… to love others and to shine brightly for the world to see.
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