When Rest is Active…
As we drove through the desert on our journey home from Mexico, I couldn’t help but remark how green everything looked, even in July! Temps here are usually around 110, so finding anything but brown was a pleasant surprise.
Showers and dust storms followed us all the way home. My backyard that usually consists of rocks and sparse plants is now starting to have green growth popping up everywhere. Even the smallest amount of water brings about life in this desert.
But do you know what isn’t flourishing? My potted plants. I’m trying desperately to keep basil, oregano, and rosemary alive during the hot summer months, but I seem to be failing. I move the pots in and out of the sun, fearing that too much or too little might undo a whole year of progress. I debate the times of day and amount to water… and all of this trying, studying, trimming, and working… seems to be killing the poor plants.
My weeds are flourishing and my herbs are choking.
Sounds like a metaphor for rest to me.
“A” sent in a great question about finding ways to rest even in the busyness of life. But rather than talking some more about what rest looks like, I want to talk about how we often work to rest, rather than just resting. We focus our energy to rest better: sleep later, say “no” to activities, find time to do something we love, read our Bibles more, attend another Bible Study… and end up feeling exhausted rather than rested. Like my herbs, all the worry and care isn’t providing the environment for growth. (This is the story of my try-hard life!)
I’ve realized in the past month that I’ve always thought rest was really associated with sleep and forgetting a to-do list. And while rest can definitely involve both of those things, I’ve come to believe that it can be so much deeper and richer. Kevin East wrote a blog post earlier this month that still has me thinking. The post was about the treasure of hand-written notes. I totally agree, there’s nothing this “written words of affirmation” gal loves more than a long note. But the part of the post that spoke directly to my heart was actually a quoted portion of a letter that someone had written to Kevin. Here’s what I mean…
In the late 90′s a good friend saw in me a never-stop-working mentality. There was always something that could be improved, or a new idea that could be hatched. I was working myself to the bone and was on pace to fizzle out soon. It was in that season that I received this letter in the mail. It read:
Remember, rest is not in sleeping late. It is not in being alone. Rest is active, and full of faith. It is sitting before the Lord and drawing all your desires from him.”
He went on to quote Psalms 62:1 “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”
The letter set me free. It reminded me that I wasn’t working to please God, but working out of His pleasure in me. That freedom allowed me to stop and enjoy the journey He had me on. I took that letter and read it to my staff each year for the next ten years.
I’ve said those words aloud to my soul several times over the past week. Rest is active, and full of faith. But just because something is active doesn’t mean that it has to be an exhausting activity.
The weeds in my rocky backyard are growing because they were positioned to simply receive the rain. They didn’t move around hoping to get the best sun angle or perfect water amount, they just grew.
We are going to keep running with this theme all week, but I wanted to kick it off with the realization that rest comes primarily through trust that God will provide for all of our needs. In the midst of my to-dos and tasks, I must trust that He will give me the strength, stamina, and courage to face this day. I don’t just work harder to rest, I shift my mindset and surrender by trusting His power and perfect provision.
“Come to Me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). It is only after we have begun to experience what salvation really means that we surrender our will to Jesus for rest. Whatever is causing us a sense of uncertainty is actually a call to our will— “Come to Me.” And it is a voluntary coming.
-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 13
Resting through trusting,