Let me let you

dry flower 5Normal morning, but my boys’ running around/picking at each other/roughhousing scraped my nerves way more than usual, and I shot sparks like a cat whose fur has been rubbed backwards. “Can’t you take it outside?” I grumped. They subdued—momentarily. Then it all repeated, and I hollered, and they finally settled—sort of.
But my nerves were still prickling, and I could tell it wasn’t going to take much to set me off again, so after rough pecks on my boys’ cheeks and gruff reminders: “I still love you even when you’re driving me crazy, even when I fuss,” I pulled out Jesus Calling (the kids’ version) and read it aloud to all of us.
I could have stopped after the verse: “Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you,” but the second paragraph amped up the lesson with this: “…you may be tempted to go it alone. But that is when you are in the greatest danger. The evil one is waiting for you to let your guard down, to step away from My protection. Ask My Spirit to help you every step of the way—during hard times and easy
times.”
The kids’ ride pulled up as I read the last sentence, and they rushed out the door, and I turned to all the tasks that must get done this morning before I can sit and read and write—the other tasks that must get done before I pick up dry flower 2the kids from school and another sort of tasks begin.
I’d forgotten the lesson already. I hadn’t given it even a second to soak in, to penetrate my mood and my heart.
I zoomed from fridge to stove to sink, moving quickly, my thoughts zooming as well till I suddenly realized where my thoughts had gone.
I was bringing up little ways I felt slighted by people in my life. I was revving up to have a good old pity party, a time of “woe is me” while my physical movements would only get faster and I’d be left feeling worn out but also itchy.
Does anyone else do that?
The Spirit brought me up short—I know it sure wasn’t me—and I recognized what I was doing. Still I resisted.
Then this phrase jumped into my mind. “Let me let you rest.”
“Let me let you”?
dry flower 4The phrase stopped me. I got the first part: “Let me…” Yes, I was being stubborn. I needed to stop and let the Holy Spirit do Spirit work in my soul.
But the second part? “…let you”?
I left the kitchen, looked up “let,” and found these definitions:allow to, permit to, give permission to, give leave to, authorize to, sanction to, grant the right to, license to, empower to,enable to, entitle to.”
I bolded the ones above that made my shoulders and my will relax.
Let me let you rest.
The tasks still await me. But though my hands may be busy, my heart can be still.
I have been allowed, permitted, granted the right, empowered, enabled, and entitled to rest in the Presence of Christ.

More on “Rest”

NOTE: A few weeks ago, I posted this piece about the word “rest” in the book of Ruth. In the last week, I’ve encountered two things that have really resonated with me regarding that topic: 1. a quote from Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471); and 2. a song from church this past Sunday. Hope these are encouraging. ~Jen

  1. If you are constantly in search of this or that, wanting to be anywhere but where you are, believing that you will be happier having more or being somewhere else, you will never know peace, never be free of care. In everything and every place you will find something lacking. Adding things to your life, multiplying them, will not bring you peace. Only be cutting back and breaking their control over your life will you find peace. This applies not only to money and riches, but to the desire for honor, for praise, and for an undemanding life. Don’t desire what you do not have. And do not cling to anything which stands in the way of your freedom in God. Thomas à Kempis
  2. “Restless” by Audrey Assad and Matt Maher. Click on the title below to listen to Assad sing this song. The lines that spoke most to me are these: “I’m restless ’til I rest in you” and “Without you I am hopeless, tell me who you are/You are the keeper of my heart.”

RESTLESS

You dwell in the songs that we are singing

Rising to the Heavens, rising to your heart, your heart

Our praises filling up the spaces

In between our frailty and everything you are

You are the keeper of my heart

And I’m restless, I’m restless

‘Til I rest in you, ’til I rest in you

I’m restless, I’m restless

‘Til I rest in you, ’til I rest in you

Oh God, I wanna rest in you

Oh, speak now for my soul is listening

Say that you have saved me, whisper in the dark

‘Cause I know you’re more than my salvation

Without you I am hopeless, tell me who you are

You are the keeper of my heart

You are the keeper of my heart

Still my heart, hold me close

Let me hear a still small voice

Let it grow, let it rise

Into a shout, into a cry

“Restless” words and music by Audrey Assad and Matt Maher, © 2010 River Oaks Music Company, Thankyou Music, Valley Of Songs Music

REST

flowers on asphaltA few years ago, the pastor at the church we were then attending preached through the book of Ruth, and I got fixated on one word.

REST

I studied the word; read commentary on the Biblical passages where it appeared; and talked one of my friend’s ears off about it during our morning walks.

Let me review the context of that word in the story. Naomi, the mother-in-law, has lost her husband and both her grown sons while she is living in a foreign country. She tells her foreign daughters-in-law she is returning to her homeland, Judah, and instructs them to stay in their own country, where she hopes and prays they will each experience rest in the home of a new husband. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, refuses to let Naomi return to Judah alone and joins her. Back in Judah, the two women struggle to survive until Ruth catches the eye and heart of a wealthy landowner named Boaz who “just happens” to be one of Naomi’s relatives. Naomi then tells Ruth, “My daughter, shall I not seek rest or a home for you, that you may prosper?”

Naomi, sure Boaz will say yes, sends Ruth to propose to Boaz, and the two are married, giving both Ruth and Naomi the rest Naomi prayed for.

The commentary I read on “rest” in Ruth focused on either the rest we find in relationship with Christ (because the story is a beautiful picture of the Gospel) or the rest/security God wants husbands and wives to find in marriage.

All beautiful stuff, but somehow it felt incomplete for me, as if there was something more I had to learn.

Yesterday all my wonderings on “rest” came rushing back. I was reading The Healing Presence by Leanne Payne. Chapter 12 discusses the idea that when we are able to truly believe in God as REAL and all He says He is, we are also truly able to live as His creations. We let go of the idea that we can create or figure out our own selves, and we are set free to focus on God and on others—to turn our gaze outward rather than inward. Payne says we are then “free to be.” The phrase that popped into my mind was this: we are free to REST.

One paragraph in particular made me think specifically of Ruth and Naomi:

To be is to experience life firsthand, to live in the present moment. The person who has the disease of introspection, who thinks painfully, constantly, and in circles about life, lives always in the painful past and for the future. In this way, he squanders his present by trying to figure out a more secure or less painful future. The future, of course, never arrives, for it is in the present moment that we “live and move and have our being.” (p. 192) 

Rest, I thought, is freedom from what Payne described. Rest is being secure not in the moment/circumstances but in the One who holds the moment and circumstances. This is true rest.

Oddly enough, though Naomi prayed for rest for Ruth, the person who really needed it was Naomi herself. Ruth seemed to be one of those rare people who have the gift of “being/resting” even in painful circumstances. When we read her story, we see evidence that Ruth was at rest even in the pain of her widowhood, even in the pain of living and journeying with a sorrowful, broken Naomi, even in the uncertainty of living as a vulnerable foreigner in a strange land. She lived fully right in her present moment.

Naomi, though, was living in her painful past, as described in Leanne Payne’s paragraph above. She was focused on creating a different future because the present was unbearable. She even changed her name to reflect this. When she returned to Judah, her former friends were shocked by the change in her appearance. “Naomi?” they asked, making sure it was still the same woman they’d known so many years before.

“Don’t call me that,” she said. “Call me Mara.” “Mara” means “bitter.” Who can blame her? She’d lost her husband and both her sons. I cannot even imagine that kind of pain. My heart breaks for Naomi. So much had been taken from her.

But in the midst of her loss, God shone the light on an incredible gift she’d already been given: Ruth.

Ruth helped Naomi walk into rest, into grasping neither the past nor the future but in being in her present time and circumstances. I’m sure Naomi never returned to being the woman she’d been before she lost her husband and sons–she wasn’t meant to–but she was no longer held captive by her sorrow. She was able to rest in the present, experiencing its joys, knowing its gifts, “living, moving, and being” in her timeless Creator.

Slow down

I took this picture during our trip to Vermont, where life DOES seem a little slower. It made me laugh then and it seemed quite appropriate for today's post. Another sign on the property said this lady sold wool. It was a little late for us to stop and bother her, but I wish we had.

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (NLT).

Last Saturday I got sick with a cold, sick enough that I slept through the Saturday noise of my household and still fell asleep early that night. When I got out of the bed Sunday morning, still woozy but better, I felt slowed down. Quick movements made my head feel like the tilt-a-whirl at the carnival.

I actually enjoyed it. I washed the breakfast dishes methodically, enjoying the warm water on my hands. I did only the things that absolutely needed to be done before going to church. When I began to cough during the service, I stepped out, got myself coffee, and chatted with a young mom nursing her baby daughter.

This quiet spirit flowed through the entire day, even through the meal preps and cleanup and the lesson planning for my classes.

Then came Monday.

Vroom, vroom. Let’s go. Hurry, hurry. Lots to do.

I left my lower gear behind and jumped straight to overdrive.

And I lost something really important in the process.

Then my in-laws arrived Thursday afternoon. Though it doesn’t seem so bad to multitask while interacting with my kids, husband, and colleagues, to do that with people you love but don’t live daily life with seems, well, RUDE. I slowed down.

And then, late that night, after everyone else was asleep, I read the next day’s devotional in Jesus Calling (just trying to get a jump on the day, you know). It was about time—literally, “time.” “Don’t fall into the trap of being constantly on the go. Many, many things people do in My Name have no value in My kingdom. To avoid doing meaningless works, stay in continual communication with Me.”

Oh.

The next day I read the Scripture passages that were listed with the devotional. “Mary…sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

I’ll be honest, though I LONG to be a Mary, I identify more with Martha. I often say, “But, Lord, ALL these things HAVE to be done. And quickly!” I can understand exactly how Martha feels.

Then I looked at the passage in a couple other translations. The “had to be made” is absent. The ESV just says “distracted with much serving,” and the Amplified says she was “overly occupied and too busy with much serving.”

What if all my rushing around, my multi-tasking fifth-gear—an attribute so highly praised by our culture—is nothing more than “over-occupation” and “busyness”?

Maybe rushing is, ouch, sin.

Maybe slowing down is “choosing the good portion,” like Mary did. The Amplified says this “good portion” is “to Mary’s advantage.”

There is still much that HAS to be done. But I don’t think my rushing accomplishes it any more quickly. And rushing keeps my focus and concentration off of Christ and on the pile of “has to be done.”

This afternoon, in a conscious effort not to rush it, I left early for an appointment. PJ, in between his morning and afternoon sessions of preschool, was with me. As we walked out the door, he said, “Look, Mommy. It’s snowing. It’s a gift from Jesus.”

We had a couple blessed minutes to stop and watch the gigantic flakes float down, a couple blessed minutes to consider the gift and the Giver.

“Only one thing is needed. … (Choose) “what is better,

And it will not be taken away…” (NIV 84).