Monday, October 8, 2012

Finding Rest

I do not rest.
Even on vacation this past week, I found little to no time for rest.  There was time for doctor's appointments, dish washing, signing documents, comforting, applying bandages, painting kitchen cabinets, buying groceries and sight-seeing, touring and bus-riding and subway tickets and so much movement and going and doing and driving and walking that the time zone change wasn't the only thing that caused my head to spin.
And I realize looking back on last week that during all the un-rest - I prayed only a few times.
I prayed a few times for the family member who has nearly smoked himself to death, his lungs full of dark masses the size of marbles and golf balls.  I prayed for his healing and comfort as he sat before me in his living room, fear dancing in his eyes.  Another time, I prayed for his Mom and Dad - for healing of their own illnesses -Parkinson's, macular degeneration, tinnitus -- fleshy growths that have to be seared off,  and then leave wounds that heal slowly and scar. All of their own suffering is now wrapped up in the fear and worry that they might outlive their son. I prayed for peace.  Oh, and I threw up a few quick prayers on the plane ride out and back.  You know, the "safe travels" prayer that comes when you realize you are about to travel thousands of miles, way,way, up in the air inside what amounts to a giant hunk of heavy, but aerodynamic metal.  Safe travels were granted.  Healing and peace for family members remains to be seen.  Rest?  I didn't pray for that.  It remains elusive.
This morning, I read Psalm 119:2 --
Blessed (happy) are those who seek the Lord with all their heart.
I thought about this verse in light of my un-rest.  I realized when I say I want rest, what I really want is happiness.  What is rest anyway?  It is the absence of pain, of obligation, of work, of things that cause my eyes to strain, my back to ache, my mind to race.  It means no smoke coming out of my ears from deep thinking or off of the keyboard as I type.  Rest is removal of angst, worry and busy-ness from my life, in other words, rest = happiness.  Or maybe the best way I can put it - rest is happiness uninterrupted by life.  Rest is the couch, not the cubicle.
Problem is, you have to get up off the couch.You have to go to your cubicle, your desk, your workplace, your in-laws, you gotta get up and go because you got to earn a living; you've got to "do your duty" as an employee, an in-law, a sister, mother, coach, a human being.  Vacations always end.  Naps have timers.
So how do I keep restful when I'm not on the couch?  How do I keep my mind at peace when family members are sick? When work is challenging?  How do I keep my energy up?  Spirits up?  How can I find rest in the midst of all this un-rest?
Blessed are those who seek the Lord with all their heart.
Problem is, I don't seek.  Well, maybe I do a little.  I look around a little bit.  Turn over a couch cushion or two.  God is that you?  Are you there?  I throw up my little prayers and petitions.  Read a Bible verse here or there.  Take a quick listen to a podcast sermon.  Now and then. Except when I'm on vacation or with the in-laws or swamped with work.  Then I get too busy for God.  There is no time to "rest with Him" or "rest in His Word" - just barely enough time to get to the Pharmacy to pick up meds, to get the porch painted, to return the rental car, to get the presentation finalized.  You know - civil unrest.  I don't seek,therefore I don't rest.
Blessed are those who seek the Lord with all their heart.
Prayer is one way I can seek the Lord.
Andrew Murray explains it this way:
Our first work in learning how to pray is this:  We must come simply into God's presence--not with our ignorant, pleading prayers, not with our many words and thoughts, as if we must convince God to do what we want, but in childlike confidence that the very work of God is being carried on is us by the Holy Spirit.  This kind of confidence will help us to REST in the reverent joy and quietness of the soul.  When we are so at peace in His mighty presence -- like a child RESTING every weight and concern in the arms of its Father, then it will be a matter of great joy to lay or desires and needs before God...
So there it is, I need to:
REST in the Holy Spirit.
PRAY in childlike confidence.
Wait a minute.  How the heck do I do either of those?
What does in mean to REST in the Holy Spirit?  Pray with childlike confidence?
It all sounds so easy, so CHILDISH.
That's it, I think.  I can rest in the Holy Spirit and pray with confidence because simply put,
I AM HIS.  God is my Father.  I am his child.  He knows me.  He loves me.  He saved me and he wants me to rest in that truth, in that knowledge.  My prayers don't need to be filled with a lot of words because he knows what I ask even before I ask for it.  He's looking out for me in the midst of it all.  He's in control.

Recently I heard Pastor Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan say in a sermon that Jesus is still human.  He is with the Father, perfected, resurrected, ascended, but HUMAN.  I found that strangely touching and moving.  I guess I always thought that when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven (Luke 24, Acts 1) --called "Ascension Day" in a lot of churches - that he went back to being, well, GOD. Or God-like.  He was no longer human and no longer had a human body.  He wasn't on earth so why would he still need it?  I don't know exactly how I pictured the ascended Jesus actually, but I know it wasn't as a human.  I find the thought of Jesus in heaven, still with a human body, to be very comforting because for me it means he knows, he still knows, how it feels to be human.  He doesn't cry anymore, his body doesn't have any imperfections or problems, he is Christ the risen King, but he still can look at his hands and feet and touch his side and remember the suffering, the aching, the pain, exhaustion and unrest.  So he knows what I mean when I say, "God help my mind to stop racing."  "Calm my worry."  "Heal this sickness."  or simply "Help!" He did exactly all of those things when he was here - he calmed, healed and helped and more than that, as a human, he knew those feelings himself -- he knew fear, disappointment, pain and restlessness - he felt all of this and more in the fishermens' boats, in the temple, the garden, the court and on the cross.

I can seek the Him with all my heart and find rest because I am not seeking a distant, disinterested God, but the God who came to earth and became human -- the God who knows what it means to be human; he understands, he's been there and he remembers. So I can ask with childlike confidence: "Father, help me find rest in your human hands." And I know that he hears me because he says:
Come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
And that's a promise I can rest assured in.

-Hope A. Horner
Follow on Twitter at HopeNote

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