Life has been particularly relentless over the past few months. The work wasn't bad, in fact, it was very good. The opening of Chick-fil-a, multiple house guests, a trip to NC, and the beginning of school has occupied time and energy.
And did I mention my three three-nagers (as my mom likes to call them) plus one pre-teen? I keep thinking that as seasons change and they get older, I should sleep more. I absolutely do not. Since the triplets have been in big people beds, at least one, if not two or even all three, have slipped, stealth-like into bed with Micah and me almost every night. They like to sleep in an H-I-W pattern. I awake each morning clinging to bed sheets at the bottom corner of my bed with at least one foot in my back. One day I will miss this, I know. It doesn't lend itself to good sleep, though.
I love the Gulf. It is a beautiful display of some of my favorite blues and greens. The water, white sand, and even the architecture give way to picturesque moments. Micah gave me some time to walk on the beach alone on our last full day. I haven't felt so driven--- even to write---in a while. As I meandered through sand and surf, my soul was nudged by each bubbling, breaking current as it became background music for the rising, morning sun. The waves, though smaller in the gulf, overlap the land in a seamless dance. They smooth and paint, gather and sow. They do not cease. They do not tire. They move, constantly.
The verses fresh on my mind as I walked were motivated by our trip. Jesus told the crowds, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." For just a moment, the reminder brought me rest. Creation plus vacation pointed to the Creator of these good gifts.
I love that the above words from Matthew are woven into the liturgy of my church. I need to hear them. They are a deep breath at the end of a very long sentence, first proclaiming the demands and precepts of God then heralding the essence of the Gospel. From the first time they were emphasized to me in a worship service setting, they have deeply resonated with my soul.
Rest, God commanding it and even desiring it for His people, is a common theme in scripture. The first reference is the seventh day of creation, when God ceased to work to spend time enjoying all He had made. Rest was instituted in the Commandments and was a day of remembrance. In Levitical law, it was again commanded and was tied to a day of Atonement. Later in Joshua, those who had wandered for years and years, finally moved in to the promised land. Rest took the form of a place where God's people ceased wandering for generations. But all points forward to the Person in Whom rest is accomplished.
I think about rest a lot. The first reason is very primal and one I have already addressed. I need rest. It is the way God ordered the world as well as my limited physical and mental abilities to work. I get tired. I wear out. My finite nature directs me to the Eternal, Infinite One.
The second reason these words bring tears to my eyes is that resting is the most difficult thing to accomplish! Imagining that the Christian life is about resting is counter-intuitive when all around me screams the imperatives, "Do! Work! Say! Run! Be! Act! Think!" (just to name a few). Rest is illusive and has to be provided for over moving around. Then, there is the rest my soul longs for, outside the angst of a broken, fallen, world. Often times, I join David in Psalm 22:2 in lament, crying out to God, finding no real rest. Just read on down the Facebook news feed if you aren't acquainted with what unrest feels like these days.
Life, work, and rest that does not fully satisfy reminds me every day that I cannot provide that which my soul ultimately longs.
The good news is there is one requirement for the person to whom Jesus is speaking. His invitation implies that those who would come for rest are those weary and carrying heavy burdens, and in context, the burdens of legalism and religiosity. The weights of life press in, even the good ones.
As a person raised in church and having heard hundreds and hundreds of sermons, my soul is sensitive to what I ought to be doing, pursuing, feeling, and thinking as informed by scripture. Imperatives are constantly informing circumstances. But outside voices are not even the ones that are the loudest. As God has written His law on my heart through the years, my God-given conscious is active. I burden myself with what I know to be true of real, whole-hearted obedience. Knowing how to obey isn't the problem. It is always the execution. I am usually not at the end of not trying--- it is at the end of trying. This is the way I am wired.
What I find interesting is that God uses these things to bring me to the end of myself and to Jesus. There is no amount of work that will satisfy the demands of my Holy Father. My own estimations of effort upon inward reflection will always be unsatisfying. There is no enough. In my personality as a rule-follower (with a false sense of control with a side of wanting to be her own boss, I confess), even if I outwardly obey, pride often follows. Trying to assimilate all the laws of God all the time leaves me weary. Yet this is not what He asks. He says, "Come."
Yet this is where grace -Jesus-, again, finds me--- always falling short, reaching the end of my abilities, welcoming me to repent and pray for increased faith.
Rest is a Person. It is the person who invites and secures a safe place for rest. Jesus also spoke words from Psalm 22, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" right before he provided eternal rest for the souls of men in His death and resurrection. Christ Jesus sat down at the right hand of God the Father, finished with the task of working to the glory of God.
Resting or working, my life is hidden with Christ in God and in His finished work. The thing that Jesus asks is the most difficult to "do". As I travel down the ancient path where the good way is that leads to soul rest (Jeremiah 6:16), the One who leads is gentle and lowly in heart, sympathizing with my weaknesses (Heb. 4). As His words are revealed to little children, it seems such good news that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Like the waves washing the shoreline, the Lord continues to work, bringing me to Him. The hope of salvation is entering the rest that is to come, and by the grace of God the Father and the work of the Son and in the fellowship of the Spirit, I will.