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3rd of January

A Call To Rest for the Weary


 

Our rest lies in looking to the Lord, not to ourselves.

Watchman Nee

 

I have this tendency to cut through the crap of social superficiality pretty quickly. I make some uncomfortable, I know.

I ask questions, based on my intuition in the moment.

I don’t mean to make people uncomfortable. I mean to get at hearts—to have heart-to-hearts—because my 58 years has taught me that most of us want real, even though we avoid real.  So sometimes, that heart opening requires a not-so-comfortable incision with a question. Something to get the truth gushing.  Because, after all, Jesus said the truth will set us free.

Last Saturday, at breakfast on the wedding day, I asked,

“How are you doing?”

I looked him straight in the eyes, this man I met my first year of college, back in 1977—this man who married my first college roommate who says I’m the one who introduced her to Jesus. I don’t even remember, really.

The father of the groom, forty years later, knew what I meant with my question.

He knew I knew all about his oldest of two sons, now 31, with Cystic Fibrosis in need of a new pair of lungs, living at home, walking around carrying an oxygen tank just so he can breathe.

He knew what I was talking about when I shared about our daughter’s relatively recent diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, her 12-day hospital stay due to psychosis and suicidal thoughts, her recent relapse this past August. All this, in a young woman who knows and loves our Lord.

He knew what I meant about the “ups” and “downs” of life that we’ve lived since college days when we were all relatively carefree. He knew we weren’t talking about life’s slight disappointments or minor irritations, but about life’s heart-wrenching realizations that alter the course of your life forever, at least this side of Heaven.

Twenty years since we’d seen each other. Forty years since college. We soon learned God’s plans are not always our plans, that God’s ways are not always our ways. Combined, our two families have walked, and are walking, some pretty rough roads.

Genetic disorders. Life-threatening illnesses. Suicides. Infertility. Cognitive disabilities. Mental illness. Stroke. Alcoholism. Learning disabilities. Physical disabilities. A life trajectory furthest from what we two couples had ever hoped or planned.

And yet . . .

Real life can bring us to our knees and stretch us beyond ourselves, causing us to seek something greater, Someone Higher. To seek the One who can save us all.

And maybe that’s the greatest grace of all.

Suffering is the best vehicle to drive us straight into the arms of the Almighty.

He looked at me and said . . .

“We thought he’d be dead by Christmas, but he’s still here.”

I didn’t know what to say.

I tried to convey my compassion, my empathy, my thankfulness through my eyes looking right into his slightly blood-shot, now behind lenses to help him see.

What man thinks he might bury his son?

That best-man-brother told me later he was so nervous he might pass out—how he wanted to stand, to keep standing, for his younger brother and his bride, without the oxygen hose strapped to his face. How he almost didn’t make it, even though the ceremony was purposefully short.

My emotions were all over the place.

I cried. I laughed. I hugged. I danced. I listened. I shared.

I heard stories from many at the reception—the ways brokenness has visited and often stayed in our lives, lingering painfully at times. The constant prayers and tears and trusting that God still loves and provides, no matter what, and never, ever leaves us without Himself to comfort, strengthen, love, deliver.

I felt thankful. Yet . . .

I felt tired.

I rejoiced with the rejoicing and grieved with the grieving.

Still . . .

Approaching a new year, I’ve been sensing a calling, growing louder, more distinct.

Not a calling like a demand.

More a calling like an invitation.

Like a crystal clear, refreshing invitation that’s kind of scary but kind of intriguing. A “come put your aching, tired foot into this clear and cool water.”

A calling to something I wouldn’t ordinarily even like. Because I might have to take off my protective sock. And sit down. And stop moving. Stop doing.

But now, I’m kind of liking this calling into something I have a sense is holy, mysterious, quite different from the known I’ve always known.

I’m sensing a call to quiet—to nothing—to listening—to resting–to just plain being with God.

I’m not used to so much resting.

I’m used to a lot of doing.

Producing.

I want to squeeze every bit of every gift God has given me in every second I have here in this life, on this Earth, for good.

For the good of others.

For the glory of God.

 

Is all my frantic serving really all about God?  Or is it really more about me?

About my wanting to be found acceptable—even commendable—by God?

Or others?

Maybe I’ve unknowingly become caught up in the craze of obsessive “serving the Lord” when, really, I’m just serving me and my anxieties wrapped up all pretty (or not) in ego.

 

To make me feel like I’ve done enough, hopefully, to please my heavenly parent.

I’ve been hearing the gentle voice of Jesus calling me to come away with Him . . .

So I wrote out my New Year’s resolutions. And know what?

The one word that sparked my interest?

REST.

Nothing but sitting in silence with Him. With Jesus.

Soaking in His presence.

Basking in His word.

Praying as the Holy Spirit moves me to pray and putting away my long, long list of requests and “to-do’s” that tire me out before I even begin.

 

I’m sensing God say to me, “Come to the quiet and learn from me.”

I have a strong feeling God is going to lead me—and others who dare to go counter-culture—into calm waters into a place of deep rest where more is done for the Kingdom of God than any other way we think we might produce.

Be. With. God.

Rest. In. Him.

Wait. For. Him.

In this seemingly crazy way, we might all find our Way.

What might happen then, in 2018, if a significant number of others rebel and go counter-cultural, seeking God’s way of silence and rest in His Word?

I dare say we might just experience a revival.

And that revival might not affect the way the world is going. At least not in the way we think it should.

God’s got the whole world in His hands.

In January 2018, the new year . . .

Does God have YOU in His hands?

Your whole heart?

Your whole mind?

Your whole soul?

Help me, Holy Spirit.  I will implode without You, O God. Save me from myself. Take my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole soul. Fashion all of me into your likeness. And for all of us, help us know that only through humility will we find our way to You, our true Salvation, our true Hope. 

 

Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength. It is wisdom to take occassional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.

Charles Surgeon

2 Comments
  • Ah, Heather — what a comforting call to (in)action! As I read your words, Mendelssohn’s “Rest in the Lord” (I have appreciated Mendelssohn’s music since college when I had to study him — his amazing melodies are unparalleled, in my opinion.) sang in my head, so here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mspew4FHrOc

    • Heather MacLaren Johnson Jan 5, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      Jan! I LOVE Mendelssohn! What a gorgeous, uplifting piece! Thank you for sharing! I used to play Mendelssohn’s Venetian Boat Songs. So romantic, passionate! Here’s one of my favorite performances by Daniel Barenboim who served as Music Director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when I lived there and had season tickets. Enjoy!

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