Sometimes, my friend, the most faithful thing you can do is crawl into bed at the end of the day, close your eyes, and sleep.
This is my mantra for today, this week, this month, and this summer.
Softly placing my head on my pillow each night, especially during busy or chaotic times, requires an abandonment of control. Intentionally ceasing to still my hands and quiet my mind at day’s end, when work still beckons, is an acknowledgment of my human frailty before our Creator who flung the stars to shine by pitch of night and designed the sun to warm by day. Resting reminds me that I am not God. Created in his image, I rest out of obedience (Deuteronomy 5:12). God values a pause in work, as he himself rested after his six days of Creation.
But there is an even deeper rest than sleep. It is a rest of the spirit: an abiding tranquility of the soul. A gentle ocean, with quiet, steady, lapping waves. Clear water, unperturbed and obedient to the moderate tide. A safe and beautiful place to boat and swim.
How different from the anxious, bothered soul! A roaring ocean, beating the shoreline, its undertow yanking swimmers, tugging them away from land, flailing and choking and even drowning. The anger of the white crested waves is powerful and dangerous and often deadly.
The soul of gentle waters trusts God moment-by-moment in contentment, and remains calm through absolute submission to God, who is wisdom and authority and perfect power. Nothing startles the Lord, and unflappable tranquility is the result of a heart set upon him.
The anxious, swirling ocean rears up at each bothersome wind of trial. There is no peace, because there is no authority or anchor. This soul is like a doubting, unstable wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6).
I remember so many years ago, rocking our babies in the middle of night. A street lamp threw a narrow gleam upon the dark canvas of that three a.m. window. The gentle creak of the rocker leant noise to the otherwise silent room. My babies must have felt the steady thumping of my heartbeat. In a short time, as we swayed, I sensed their small bodies relax, limp and heavy with sleep. I held them tenderly against my shoulder, kissing their downy heads and marveling at the wonder of them. They rested in my arms in utter trust.
How much more our Heavenly Father holds his own. We are so beloved by him that he cares for us moment by moment, held fast even beyond our lifetime, cradling us into forever. How often I forget the sturdiness of God’s love. We discover true rest only in Him.
This week I had plans to work on specific projects. Those plans crumbled due to unanticipated events, and I instantly felt a growing tightness in my shoulders, and a clenching of my jaw as I reviewed my unfinished To-Do list.
I love my To-Do list. It is how I navigate through each day. God pried the list from my hot hands and turned this week into something quite different.
I confessed yet again, apologizing for curling into selfishness: something I thought I had crucified. Tricky, because my planned projects themselves were for others, and while that in itself appears generous, I neglected to rest in God and to keep a tranquil spirit: Nevertheless not my will but yours, be done (Luke 22:42). I somehow forgot that he orchestrates all events with purpose.
I was a turbulent ocean.
I will not slip into a state of godly tranquility by happenstance. These bones require the meat and skin of repentance, prayer, and Bible reading. I am asking God to refine my To-Do list, praying for him to infuse me with a desire to obey and please only Him. Everything else is quite secondary.
I have also decided on the front end of what is shaping up to be an exceptionally busy summer, full of deep projects and extra work, to cheerfully tend to the duties which he has placed in my lap.
And then, when the evening beckons, and the sun lowers its heated rays, I will faithfully slip between cool sheets, read a good book, and go to sleep. God is awake and working, that I may rest.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8