There are seasons in life where you learn to just hang on for the ride. My family’s in one of them now.
For several weeks, we’ve been in the middle of preparing for an interstate move (with husband there and me here), trying to find the “perfect” house (which apparently doesn’t exist), finishing all the end of school year activities for two kids, and trying to occasionally write interesting blog posts (although at this point I’d settle for adequate). And through it all, the one major take away has been learning that human beings were not intended to subsist on six hours of sleep a night, diet coke, and chocolate.
I confess I'm pretty much an idealist. In my world, if I want something badly enough, if I work hard enough, and if I just commit to making sure it happens, it will. Food, sleep, rest? What are those? They’re simply props for the weak. And yet, what I’m discovering--once again even after several decades on this planet--is my own weakness. I’m learning about my inability to do it all, how quickly stress affects every part of me and my tendency to be really mean when I’m overwhelmed.
But thankfully, this week I re-learned something even more important.
This last Sunday--after wrestling three kids into dress clothes (which included discovering that child #2 cheekily grew out of ALL his pants overnight), brushing teeth, combing hair, and screaming at them to get out the door so we wouldn’t be late (which we were)-- I finally sat down in church. Only to be confronted about thirty minutes later with this verse: “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.”
Our pastor didn’t spend a lot of time on it; but the Spirit did. "Hannah, even in plowing and harvest, you need rest. Even in the busiest times of life—the times that would make the most sense for you to keep working—you must rest."
Many of us probably grew up acknowledging Sunday as “the Lord’s Day” but I’m not so sure that an equal number of us grew up with the idea of Sabbath rest. We were not under such law. We were “free” in Christ. But unlike a lot of people think, Sabbath isn’t rooted in archaic blue laws or spiritual legalism. It’s rooted in trust and faith. Because when you take a Sabbath, when you take time to rest, you express your faith in a God who works for you so you don’t have to. And you show that you trust Him enough to stop. Stop all the rushing. Stop all the worry. Stop all the chaos.
And you allow tomorrow take care of tomorrow so that you can do what you need to do most—nothing.
So that’s what we did this last Sunday after coming home from church. Despite having a messy house (no, I mean a disastrously
messy house) and needing to have it cleaned by 3:00 the next day, my kids and I took the day off. McDonalds, books, long naps, a walk around town--hey, I even got crazy and put up a tent in the middle of the living room floor just for the fun of it. All in an effort to teach them and myself that God expects us to relax and rest in Him. I want them not only to see a mommy who is driven to reach her goals, but a mommy who trusts Jesus enough to let Him be the One to get her there.
Because ultimately the stakes are that high. While Sabbath is about physical recuperation, it’s more than that. Sabbath is a lifestyle. Sabbath is Gospel. It’s a view of the world that says I don’t have to work because Christ already did. I don’t have to fret and fuss and get my righteousness in order, because Christ already did. I can rest. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
And just so we won’t forget that, God reminds us once every seven days. Because in some sense too, Sabbath is practice--practice for that long-awaited, glorious day when there is no more work, no more tears, no more sighing. And so we learn to rest in Him today so that one day, we can rest in Him for all eternity.
Here's some helpful advice for those moments when you feel like blowing your top and screaming at a person you disagree with. Remember..."...there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner--no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment... your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden."C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
In church yesterday, our pastor was teaching through Exodus 33 and 34. Towards the end of his sermon, he stopped on Exodus 34:6-7 where God reveals His glory to Moses and describes the kind of God He is. The verses read this way:
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.
Our pastor shared that this particular description of God, sometimes even the exact phrasing, is one of the most repeated texts in the body of Scripture. It’s found in as disparate places as the Psalms and the Epistle to the Romans. As an aside, he challenged us to see how many other places we could find it.
So as he was speaking, the wheels started turning. My brain does that sometimes – just starts moving entirely of it’s own accord and I’ve learned that I pretty much have just hang for the ride until it’s decided it’s found what it’s looking for. (I suppose having admitted this, I should cut my daughter some slack when she responds to me with that same starry-eyed look and says, “I’m sorry Mommy--I just keep getting distracted!”) Anyway, this phrase in Exodus echoed something for me yesterday. I could sense it in the back of my mind… and yes, it was coming… if I pause long enough….. and…. There! I had it.
All those attributes strung side by side--like pearls on a necklace--reminded me of I Corinthians 13.
Now probably like you, I am no stranger to the “Love Chapter” as we call it. But yesterday, for first time in my life, with Exodus 34:6-7 in one hand and I Corinthians 13 in the other, I finally saw it for what it was. For too long I had been reading it simply as a standard to be lived, an expectation of how I should relate to other people; and all along I had been missing that it could only be that because it describes how God already loves us. Of how He loves me. And how He loves you.
So with apologies to the ESV, here’s something of what Moses heard when God passed by:
God is patient and kind;
He does not envy or boast;
He is not arrogant or rude.
He does not insist on His own way;
He is not irritable or resentful
He does not rejoice at wrongdoing
He rejoices with the truth.
Your God bears all things.
Believes all things,
Hopes all things
Endures all things.
And He never ends.
Not bad for a Sunday morning. Not bad at all.
As I was catching up with things yesterday, I realized that I’ve been away longer than I anticipated. I guess I’m supposed to tell you that I purposely took off Holy Week to commit myself to quiet reflection, prayer and silence, something like this:
But the reality is that I just took the week off and spent time with my family, something like this:
We traveled back to my folk’s home in rural Pennsylvania, caught up with old friends, and generally avoided FB, blogging, pinning, and all things cyber. (That’s easy to do in a house that got their first--and limited--internet connection less than two years ago. My older brother likes to tell people that our family has single-handedly set back the industrial revolution a good two hundred years.)
So instead of Wii and websites, my kids had the run of ten acres of gorgeous homestead just on the cusp of spring. For over a week, they busied themselves with a tree house, apple blossoms, treasure hunting in junk piles, giving new life to old things, and adventures in the woods. They channeled their inner Boxcar Children
and spent the time in blissful exuberance. I don’t think they’ll ever be able to go back to normal life.
For my part I mostly watched. I tried to get involved in the occasional backyard basketball game--or “shooting hoops” as my five-year-old calls it (where did he come up with that?!?)—but quickly discovered that I’m not fifteen anymore. Apparently nobody told my neck and back that you can’t take off over a decade and a half off, birth three babies, and expect to come out of retirement in a matter of minutes. Still even as a spectator, I have to admit that this week was fabulous.
And I think a lot of it had to do with simply unplugging.
I’ll be honest--I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Recently I listened to an Erma Bombeck book released in 1995; in her typical wry way, she decried the intrusion of--get this--answer machines, faxes, and cellular telephones. Oh Erma, you had no idea. Now I’m not one to be a fuddy-duddy – both my husband and I grew up technologically disenfranchised, me without internet, cable, or cell phones and him without television. (Our families were homesteading, canning, cloth diapering and engaging in all things Mother Earth News
long before it was cool--believe me, I have the junior high to prove it.) So as adults, we quickly welcomed technological conveniences with open arms.
But in these last ten years, there’s been a tech explosion and even though I consider myself somewhat behind the trends, I often feel overwhelmed. Both by how much media is already present in my life and how much more could be. And if I’m not careful, I find myself becoming more and more dependent on the highs of digital interaction. Just one more glance at Facebook, one more check of the news, one more tweet, one more, one more.
And it’s not simply information overload. Sometimes it’s relational overload—and that’s saying something coming from a Grade-A-Certified extrovert like me. A friend of mine recently decided to take a hiatus from Facebook and one of her main reasons was because she found that she simply couldn’t engage that many people in a holistic way. Her friends, although scattered around the world, were posting their joys and pain, laughter and sorrow at a rate that was humanly impossible to respond to. Yet, her personality drove her to want to fully engage them and she simply couldn’t. As a result, she actually felt burdened and weighed down by the sheer amount of relationships that faced her every time she opened her computer. Worse, she felt like she was failing them and ultimately failing the people closest to her by trying to carry burdens for people that, given the traditional limitations of time and space, perhaps she was never intended to carry in the first place.
Trust me, I like the internet. I like Facebook. I like blogging. (I like you reading my blog.) But this whole new way of life presents us with unique challenges and forces us to trudge through some very uncharted territory. And one of the most interesting things about it all is how personal it is. Walking successfully through this new terrain requires knowing yourself, knowing your own relational weaknesses, and knowing when to cut it off. And I guess for me, it also means realizing that while all things are lawful, not every thing is necessarily expedient
, and I'd better be careful that I'm not mastered by any of it. But mostly--after this last week--it means helping my kids remember that the excitement of finding a new game site is nothing compared to the joy of discovering beautiful old jars and bottles in a long-forgotten junk pile.(Spring was brought to you today by the number 10, the letter A, and my very talented husband.