The title of this post is a reminder to me of why I named this blog, “The Beauty of Progress.” I’ve been writing my thoughts here for almost 10 years, and I truly can see progress. And if there has been one consistently running theme over these ten years, it has been my desire for rest. If I was super blog savvy, I would link you to all the posts that touch on the theme of rest and trusting God . . . but I’m doing well to just get this post up. So trust me when I say that I have gone from a super stressful, struggling, striver (a person who strives in her own effort) to slowly taking one step at a time towards becoming one who operates out of rest. Why? Because I heard a sermon a long time ago on Hebrews 4, which begins with:
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.
When you are chronically stressed, worried, anxious, working yourself into the grave, then chances are you’re striving and not resting. Jesus came so that we could enter that place of rest, and truthfully, striving is not trusting Him or receiving what He paid for. And so that sermon hit me in the forehead as I was all of those things, and I didn’t want to be any of them. I wanted and still greatly want peace, joy, and genuine rest to be the features that stand out when you meet me. I want to be a carrier of rest so that when others encounter me they sense the Holy Spirit and they say, “oh wow, could I just sit with you for a little bit?” I want to be a safe place for those who need safety. But if I’m an intensely tight ball of chaos, then I can’t offer that to anyone. I truly believe that when people encountered Jesus as He walked the earth they felt a unique sense of His rest. I believe that the woman at the well knew that He was safe to talk with; I think the convict who hung on the cross next to Jesus also recognized the unique feeling of the Presence that Jesus carried. And that is my goal. I want to just be a carrier of Jesus and Who He is.
And I meant to write this post as an update and instead started off on a major bunny trail . . . a bunny trail that is probably the real trail.
So for those of you who are striving, who are struggling, who feel that the Christian life is too hard, could I just process with you what I am learning?
There is no doubt that the Christian life is hard, but there is also no doubt that life itself is hard. With the fall of Adam came everything that God never intended for us to deal with – sin, sickness, the ongoing struggle to fight the distractions of the world to focus on a friendship with God, and the lies that Satan throws at us all day long, every day. The Garden of Eden was a beautiful paradise that man was to enjoy as He walked and talked with God. We forget that God meant that to be the place where we lived. Since that day in history, the great misunderstanding of God began, and I think that is the biggest struggle we face. God created us to be in intimate fellowship with Him, and yet that requires a letting go of so much that is natural to our flesh. And when we live in a world that spouts how fantastic it is to do whatever feels good, then to live the Christian life is to constantly swim up stream against all that the world is doing and thinking.
So I’m saying all of that to say this –
Over the past few months, I’ve spent far too much time in introspection, trying to work out all these puzzles in my head – how to build friendships here, how to help Mark find a job that is ideally suited for him, how to raise support so that I can continue in ministry, how to figure out how to settle here, how to deal with passports and visas, how to build a training centre, how to network, and the how to list was coming out my ears. The pressures of I have to do this and I have to do that and I have to do it all so well . . . and being exhausted every night from my own internal thought life. And then I just had a night of basically telling God everything I possibly thought about all of it and going to sleep without waiting to hear His answer or to hear what He thought. I basically threw a here’s-what-I-think-and-feel-and-I’m-so-frustrated fit.
Yet He answered anyway, and He has shown that He is faithful regardless of anything I could say to Him. His character remains steady, and His love pursues me no matter what.
So the past week or so has been filled with consistent messages that have pinpointed this area of rest. I recently had someone tell me that they saw Mark and me facing a giant wall of ice and no matter what we did we couldn’t get around it. I walked away feeling like yes, exactly, but where are the tips on how to get through the ice?! We have (and are) facing some seriously tough circumstances and our efforts have done nothing to change them, so now what? What do you do when you’ve tried it all? Probably just rest and trust God. I probably should have started with that anyway, but slow learner that I am I thought I could think my way through it all and still trust God.
We are entering a time when the world is just getting more chaotic by the second. And for us the circumstances that used to be easy are now just consistently tough. So what do we do? I’m realizing that what we do is just lean in more. Simplify more. Free up life from the distractions and possibly even free ourselves up from anything that keeps us from focusing more on Jesus. If I’m not in a solid friendship with the Lord where I know His thoughts about me, then I’m not spending my time right. It is not more important that I be doing something if I haven’t first placed my heart into a place of resting in His love and care for me and my day. And as a mom, especially a working + home educating mom, it’s tough to get rid of the distractions. It’s super tough to get up and start my day right. It requires a place of super intentionality. Yet as a director of a Bible training ministry and leader of a team of missionaries, I’m finding that I can waste a whole lot of time doing a lot of nothing that will not lead us to where God wants us. I’d be far better off to spend my time seeking Him and fine tuning my ears to His than to just be spinning my wheels, which I have been for 20+ months now. For my family’s sake, I’d be far better off to walk in rest and peace than to have a perfectly cleaned house, straight A students, and three healthy cooked meals per day.
So I got my sense of direction back over this past week. I feel like we’re back on the right path, and we’re starting it simply. I do not want to be a missionary, a mama, a wife, a friend, or a follower of Jesus and present a chaotic sense of being. I want to be one who walks with the Lord and looks something like Him. I want to be a carrier of His rest and His joy. I want my path to look and feel like the one above, which is just simple, quiet peace and rest. And I know for a fact that this is what this world needs. They need peace in the chaos. They need a safe place. They need to know Jesus, and as carriers of Him we need to be an accurate reflection of Who He is.
The past 4.5 months have shown me how I don’t want to be any more. They’ve taught me how NOT to react to trying circumstances. I have learned from them, and now it’s time to walk and talk with Him. It’s time to let everything proceed out of my friendship with Him.