When the ground is completely covered in snow and the trees stand stark against a gray sky, everything appears lifeless. No growth is visible. No fruit is being produced. No flowers are filling the spaces with color and fragrance. There seems to be no point in the season. Everything is dormant… in a state of rest. Ah! There is the point in the season. A state of rest.
It’s only in that state of rest that these plants can better establish their root systems… pushing those roots deeper and deeper into the soil, enabling the plants to better withstand the heat and the drought of the coming Arkansas summer. In the dead of winter none of the plants’ valuable energy is being used on outward, visible growth. It’s being carefully conserved, rationed and used to make a sturdier, healthier and more vigorous plant. That’s the kind of plant that will be most useful in the seasons to come. That is the plant that will bear more fruit, display more beautifully fragrant blooms, and provide garden visitors with shade and shelter.
Unlike these plants, rest is not forced upon humans by a change in season. We must choose to rest. In our hurried and busy world, rest is viewed more as a luxury than a necessity. Choosing to rest is choosing to be obedient. Choosing to rest is choosing to let God grow us and strengthen us in order that we may accomplish His purpose for us. Choosing to rest is choosing to come to Christ, because He tells us that’s the only way we can get rest. He gives it to us. (Matthew 11:28)
Choosing to rest takes work and planning. Rest is the only commandment where God actually set an example for us. He showed us how to rest. On the seventh day God rested. Not because He was tired from His work, but because He wanted to stress the importance of rest to us. Make an effort… choose to rest.
“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:11
I have trouble shaking off my Pharisaical wardrobe when it comes to resting. Sometimes my attempts to rest are exhausting. I will try so hard to do nothing that my efforts become my focus. I really don’t think that’s what God intended when He commanded us to rest. He taught me a lesson in rest recently through airports, chickens and mud pies.
I’m not a big traveler. Between a demanding work schedule and my love of being at home with my husband it’s a rare occasion for me to travel, especially without my hubby. But I took a trip recently to visit some dear friends of mine in another state. I wanted to reconnect with them, but more importantly I felt driven by God to make this trip. Before I ever left the city limits of my hometown I felt God beginning to move in me in a way I had never felt before. It was a calm assurance that He was going to make Himself known to me in a new and different way. I realized that even though I didn’t understand it completely, He had ordained the timing and the events. I trusted Him and I followed His leading.
During my drive to the airport God continued to speak to me through the music I listened to. He especially spoke through a song by Brandon Heath called “No Turning Back”. I felt a determination from deep within that I would not turn back. I would not turn back to the ordinary run-of-the-mill Christian life that I had led for so long. No going back to the days before I took a bold step of faith and wrote the book I knew God called me to write… a step of obedience that changed my life more than I ever dreamed it could. God made it clear to me that He has more moving forward for me, but in the meantime He wanted me to settle in to a time of rest so that He could do a work in me.
I thought I had a good idea of what that time of rest would be like. There would be hours of quite reflection, completely undisturbed by anyone or anything. I imagined God leading me gently from times of quiet prayer alone, to times when I could resume my current writing project. My time away would include peaceful solitude. I smile now as I remember what I thought my season of rest would look like. It did not include flight delays and an unexpected overnight layover in a strange city. It did not include inventing games with hula hoops and sticks of firewood to play with a 3-year-old. It did not include making mud pies with a 6-year-old. It certainly did not include a trip into a chicken coop to gather eggs (you would have to know my fear of chickens based on a childhood experience to fully appreciate that). How could one possibly rest with flight delays, chickens and mud pies?
This was a kind of rest different than any I had ever experienced. It was an inner strengthening and a spiritual reinforcement. It was a lesson that life doesn’t have to come to a complete standstill in order to rest in God. It was a lesson that true rest comes when we are obedient to the calling God has for us, no matter how odd the leading may be, or how unusual and unexpected the circumstances.
You see, the first part of this post was written long ago and posted when I first began my journey of blogging (the original post ended with the verse from Hebrews). I truly believe every word I wrote. But God has since taught me that rest in Him comes in many different forms. Sometimes He will call us to that quiet place of solitude, all alone and removed from everyone else and everything that could be a distraction. And sometimes He will call us to a place of airport delays, chickens and mud pies in order to speak to our hearts and empower us in ways we never imagined He could.
I had actually scheduled this post to publish a week prior to my trip. Divine circumstances that God would not allow me to intervene in, no matter how much I tried, prevented the post from publishing. I now understand why. He wanted me to have a more complete understanding of how I can rest in Him. I wasn’t going to get that unless I followed Him in obedience on this trip to visit my dear friends. It was a trip that was completely out of character for me to take, but I knew God was directing me to do so. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend time with my friends, it’s that I would normally find a dozen excuses not to do so… too much work, not enough time, too many other obligations that required my attention. I had a choice to make. I chose obedience.
Going back to restate a few words from the earlier part of this post… from words that were written before my latest learning experience on resting… “Choosing to rest is choosing to be obedient. Choosing to rest is choosing to let God grow us and strengthen us in order that we may accomplish His purpose for us.” In my newly discovered state of rest God strengthened my resolve to continue to move forward in obedience to Him. He taught me that as He leads me forward, my journey will occasionally take me beside the still waters where He can restore my soul.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2-3, KJV)
That journey will continue on after my rest, but during my time of rest He wants me to continue to live, and to live my life for Him. And sometimes, situated right next to those still waters, there will be airports, chickens and mud pies.