The pace of it all seems a curse; doesn’t it?
Slap the alarm at 6:30. Toss up a prayer. Throw down a quick cup of coffee. Throw three turkey sandwiches together. Dress the baby. Shower. Match socks for the boys. Find the missing shoe. It’s ten till eight; shoot! Load the boys into the minivan. Hustle to school, then to daycare. Go to the office. Tend to the work-a-day emergencies. Choke down lunch at the desk. Take appointments. Don’t stop; don’t stop; earn that salary. It’s ten till six; shoot! Speed home. Eat dinner with the family. Speed through a bedtime story. Tuck the kids in. Fold the clothes. Put the kids down again. Sweep the floors. Serve a glass of water and a warning—don’t get out of bed again; I mean it! Wash the dishes. It’s ten till 10; shoot!
This is the rhythm of our modern lives, always striving, always on the hustle. There are things to do, opportunities to seize. We’re moving at breakneck speed, and the pace gives us precious little time for silence, meditation, and prayer. We drift from inner examination, from contemplating the things that matter. No one rests anymore. It’s a sign of weakness.
In 2012, the pace of my life buried me. Burning the candle at both ends, times of rest, meditation, and prayer were sparse. Everything was held together by the thinnest of threads stretched taught. And then, the knife fell.
Our youngest son’s health began to falter. Unable to hold down a meal, he shed weight, turned into a small bag of animated bones. His eye-sockets turned into shadows. His ribs were countable. The veins throbbed in his temples.
We were rushed to the hospital, and the doctors poked and prodded, wondering why Titus could not seem to gain weight. They ran test after test—they were in the midst of their own hustle—and we waited for results.
There, in the forced break from the busyness of my daily routine, I found myself restlessness and off-kilter. I found that I was estranged from God.
I suppose there are ways to handle this sort of estrangement. One could turn into the quiet, could hope to find the rest promised by Jesus amidst the tyranny of the pace and pains of life. On the other hand, one could pick up the addiction du jour–the bottle, the food, the credit card, the porn habit. One could avoid the Still Small rest and create salves from the stuff of earth.
I chose the latter.
Gin was my bottle of choice, and it took too long to realize it had its claws in me. But as is the patient way of the Spirit, He speaks, begs us to come clean from our busyness, from our addiction. He begs us to rest.
In the greener days of first sobriety, I heard it—come into my rest. It was October 3rd, 2013, and this is how I recorded the moment in my daily journal:
Unable to sleep, I woke this morning at 4:30 and made my way to my living room chair. I read passages in small chunks, stopped and listened until my mind wandered, till I started thinking about work obligations, or family engagements, or about the time Jude got a pencil eraser stuck up his nose. This morning, I heard the distracting voice of the gin calling, calling, always calling. In this prone-to-wander place, I stopped. I re-centered, and then I prayed.
“I am sorry, Lord. Help my unbelief.” I looked back down to scripture in my lap, and I took another small helping of words to heart. It was the bit about coming to Jesus, the easy-yoked Messiah.
“Come to me,” he said, “and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
(Excerpt from Coming Clean, Zondervan, 2015.)
I’ve read these words countless times over the course of my life, but this morning, they came to life in a new way. They were meant as a promise, I sense, the hope of a present and abiding glory. This assurance comes fast and without warning. Perhaps this it the Still Small Voice speaking?
There, before hustle and bustle of obligations gathered a day’s worth of steam, I sat in the stillness. I slowed long enough to hear the promise—I will give you rest—long enough to take ingest it, to contemplate it. The promise rang true.
There is rest from addiction, rest from frenetic spirit compromised by the world around us. There is rest from anxiety, from living in an upended peace. There is rest from the endless money-churn, from the expectations that loom. There is rest if we trust it; I know this.
“Come into my rest,” he says—today, if only.