He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23:2-3 NASB
We've all seen it. Every toddler does it. When someone mentions the "N-word" they stomp their feet and declare, "I don't want a nap! I'm not tired!"
Don't you say, "Oh, please. Would someone send me to bed for a nap? Pretty pleeeease?" Well, yes, I say that all the time… er… except when God asks me to rest. That's when I take my toddler stance: place my hands on my hips, form my best pouty-face, stomp my feet and say, "But, God, I'm not tired!"
Can anyone else relate? Why do we do that?
Maybe, like our toddler friends, we fear missing out on some action (real or imagined). The chatter we hear might mean someone is planning something fun or significant and, like a toddler, we want to stay up beyond our bedtime, so we don't miss out. We picture God like our "kill-joy mother who wants to withhold something good from us" instead of a loving Father, who only wants the best for us. And, like every parent knows, children need their rest to be their best. *
We might resist rest because we fear being overlooked. In our absence, someone else might get an opportunity meant for us; out-of-sight-out-of-mind, you know? But the truth is, when we silence ourselves, we stop our conscious striving and discover our authentic self; our God-given desires and gifts that He placed within us since our conception.
Sometimes, we fear being less-than. If we step away from something, our skills might lapse, or we find we're not all that good anyway. God uses rest to show us our best or truest gifts which "come forth in peace and humility and strength to meet the deepest needs of our world."*
Or, we fear losing control. If we relinquish control of (fill in the blank), we might lose it completely. And what if we do? What if we lose our way? Maybe that's the point. It takes great faith to relinquish control. What we perceive as our best talent, ministry, gift, etc. might just be a blurry view of God's best. But God rewards our humble faith and will show us a better way--a partnership rather than a solo mission based upon self-reliance and striving.
And honestly, we get impatient. In rest, we might find ourselves tapping our feet, asking God, "Are we there yet?" Especially after a long rest. Like toddlers, we might think our "nap" will last forever. God doesn't intend to keep us in perpetual rest. Rather, He's committed to us returning to our most authentic ministry, rested, restored and re-calibrated.
Rest serves a purpose: to restore us. Rest restores us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. During rest our cells regenerate, our bodies heal, our emotions (and fears) settle down, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through our subconscious. In the quiet and solitude rest brings, we allow space for our hearts and souls to breathe and our ears to hear God's voice. Once we make room to hear God, we'll know how greatly God loves us and that His intentions toward us are always good. Our hearts may need recalibration, just like a compass, to center ourselves, our gifts, and ministry on Christ. It's this partnership with God, sustained by His Spirit, that changes the world.
Is God asking you to rest? Find a regular place for solitude and silence. Honestly, but briefly tell God why you showed up. Then, simply rest and listen.
Father God, You ask us to rest that You may restore us to our most authentic self; the son or daughter You intended us to be. Give us the faith to trust You. May we not resist this rest but clear the clutter of our lives to make room to simply listen. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
* Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence, by Ruth Haley Barton, 2010 IVP