Practicing the Restfulness of God

I have long ago given up any sort of “official” making of New Year’s resolutions. The ones from years past went largely abandoned by the end of February anyway.

But there’s something about the end of one year and the beginning of the next that seems to demand at least a little time spent reflecting on where I find myself, and whether or not I like that place. If not, “What am I going to do about it?”

This past fall has been very busy. I’ve come to see that it was too busy. Too often, I didn’t have time in my week for something as wonderful as a cup of coffee with a friend, or for something as mundane as organizing my pantry…or much of anything in between. Juggling too many deadlines created a great deal of anxiety for me. Too many things on my calendar caused me to dread many of them, even those that cleanly fell into the “fun” category. As a result, I entered into the holiday season already exhausted.

I’d forgotten how to simply rest, as God commands us, and to remember that it’s really not all up to me (Exodus 34:21; Matthew 11:28-30).

I wonder why it’s so easy for me to wander off into wrong patterns of thinking? To slowly begin living out a pace of life that says I think it really is all up to me and – somehow – I must do it all? I’ve been thinking about this for the few weeks, since I finished a blessedly-short book called Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. Next week, Dave Cover will lead a discussion on this book for the women in The Crossing church community. I’m very much looking forward to this discussion, and I’m very interested to know if other women “suffer” as I do.

Here’s what I do know:

  • There’s a real tension between being faithful to the things we feel called to do, and battling against the dangerous lie we can begin to live out, that says we are somehow justifying ourselves with our busy-ness.
  • I personally do not create enough margin in my life to do all the things I’ve committed to well…without killing myself.
  • I do not take God’s command to take a Sabbath rest seriously enough. (Or maybe at all?)

This past week, as my physical health was on the decline, I’ve begun reading another small book that my husband posted about last Monday, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. There is an idea flowing through this book that may help me battle against the idea that I must do it all. The idea is that anything I accomplish successfully is only by God’s grace, and in His strength. However we spend the time we are given, it is more important to spend it in a humble acknowledgement that God’s presence and pleasure are the means and the end goal, than it is to accumulate check marks on our to-do list. What we do, ultimately, is less important than the heart behind our efforts.

It is a good reminder that God does not call us to do more work than we can handle. He simply calls us to do it – whatever “it” is – out of love for Him, and as unto Him. So, if I spend my day caring for my family, I can please God. I can do laundry to the glory of God, peel potatoes to the glory of God, change bedsheets to the glory of God.

However, I also know that the Apostle Paul poured himself out for the sake of Christ, preaching the gospel and ministering to others to the detriment of himself until the very end, and as I’ve written recently, I am drawn to end my life that way too, and pray – by the grace of God – that I might finish well.

So…where is the line? How are we to know when we should be inconveniencing our comfortable American lifestyles for the sake of the gospel, and when we should be giving ourselves time to rest, recognizing that it’s not all up to us?

As I post this blog, it is perhaps ironic that I am on Day Two of antibiotics for bronchitis, something I “didn’t have time to deal with” properly during the busy pace of last week. So clearly, I don’t have the answers to the busy-ness problem, which is why I look forward to the discussion of DeYoung’s book on January 15 with great anticipation.

We ought not weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of The Presence of God

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