Sometimes lessons catch us by surprise making them particularly memorable. Several have come my way unannounced the past few weeks. One afternoon, distracted by the Bluetooth feature of my car, I failed to slow down quickly enough on entering a neighboring town. Though I requested a warning, I received a hefty citation. I shoved the little green slip of paper into my wallet none too happy, and then proceeded to my patient’s home. An impish thought darted through my mind like a headline: Nurse-Do-Good on Mission of Mercy Shown No Mercy by Small Town Authorities. I hate to admit that this attitude persisted until I paid the fine and requested deferred adjudication. Thus, for ninety days I must break no laws else both citations will go on my record and affect my insurance. Two lessons, neatly wrapped in a green slip of paper like gifts from heaven, were delivered through this circumstance. First of all, a reminder to SLOW DOWN – ninety days of enforced rest!! I mentioned to God life is especially busy right now and He replied in a S*L*O*W Southern drawl for emphasis, “I know.” He has promised to teach me to slow down even when life demands I hurry. Generally, it takes thirty days to form a habit – I suppose God knows this habit will take ninety days to form!!!
Receiving from earthly authority all God desires to give, heads the outline of lesson two. The Lord desired to give more than a warning against speeding, He had transformation in mind. He knew exactly when to pull me over, and that I would feel irritated over not being given a break. He knew I would argue in my heart that too much is expected of me – I’ll spare you the full blown version of this argument!! He also knew that ultimately I would see this expensive interruption in the flow of my day as a divine favor. Since that day, police car sightings occur routinely, reminding me of God’s word to me to slow my heart (and vehicle) down – to live life Spirit-paced rather than driven by all manner of motivations. I’ve sensed a healthier rhythm to my days, more joy, and more peace. He has also increased my capacity for offering comfort from a stilled heart prepared to listen.
My sweet little grandson scooted to the podium next to teach a few lessons on rest. In recent weeks he has determined naps are for sissies, and bedtime a prime opportunity to practice asserting the will. Sharp as a whip, he employs a foolproof tactic for postponing the inevitable: spontaneous laughter, primarily aimed at Mom, who of course can’t help but respond uproariously. Secretly he banks on convincing her that a child this happy could not possibly be tired. Following the laugh-fest, Mom draws a warm bath and prepares him for the nightly ritual: a calm soak, cuddle time in his ducky towel, a massage, and the donning of soft footy pajamas. Most of the aforementioned takes place in his dimly lit room with lullabies playing in the background. Not surprisingly, this worked like a charm a month ago. Cradled in Mom’s arms he peacefully drifted off, without so much as a tear, traces of a milk mustache atop his blissful lips. Now days, he arches into a perfect backbend, while inconsolably sobbing in protest, refusing comfort and sleep as though undergoing cruel and unusual punishment. This difficult path to slumber betrays his unspoken thoughts: “I don’t have time for rest; I’ve too many things to see and to do, too many things to learn. I don’t want to miss out on life by closing my eyes, not even for a second.” In essence, he has not learned to trust his schedule to Someone else!!
His cousin of nine has difficulty with this also. Call it ADHD, for in part it is driven chemically, but primarily something in the realm of his desires compels him to live life in high gear. You might call it the compulsion to pack as much sweet life into twenty-four hours as possible, or the fear of missing out especially on opportunity for experiencing relationship. New to our family, he has worked tirelessly to forge relationships his young heart hopes will last. He came to us through what likely seems to him the revolving door of the foster system – a door that at times admits you into people’s hearts or when least expected puts you out. Never sure how long family life with this group of people will last, he goes for it with unbridled gusto. I admire him!! And I love him deeply, besides. At times it seems he could throw a ball back and forth without end for the rest of his life. Once a willing party engages in “catch,” he sees no reason to stop the game, even for some quiet adult time minus a sphere sailing through the air. The other night after being asked several times to settle down, he was gently informed it was bedtime and after hugs all around, sent to a warm bed with creamy velvet covers. Torture, pure torture!! My son-in-law heard him first – whimpering, curled in a ball on the carpet, claiming, “I just CAN’T go to sleep.” We all knew this boy with the infectious grin and hearty appetite for love could drop chin to chest in deep slumber in a matter of seconds in the backseat of a moving car. Get him still, and the tired little body would quickly overthrow his busy mind.
Decades older, and very fond of naps, massages and velvet covers, I still struggle with the same issues as my grandsons when it comes to submitting my longing heart and the scheduling of my days to God. Sometimes I doubt He knows me well enough to call the shots, to fill my heart and day with all it’s meant to contain, no more and no less. Often I question how I’m supposed to devote myself to investing in my sweet family, to writing, to leisure pursuits, to healthy eating habits and exercise when I’m “required” to put in so many hours on the job. Then, only He can cradle my frantic heart, slow my pulse, and sing calming lullabies which usher in rest while in motion. Like my grandsons buckled in the backseat, dreaming, while someone else takes the wheel. He in fact does know that He formed me to be a reflective type, one who craves dream time, who deeply enjoys family interaction. He knows my energy level and the changes advancing age hold for me in particular. And He also knows the works He planned for me before I drew breath. Can I trust Him with my life, relationships, time while on the earth?? I echo my grandson’s questions.
Finally, what on earth could tantrums have to say about rest? Listen closely with me to the message whispered amid the chaos of tearful demands, flailing limbs, and emotions in 3-D. What I truly desire often lies buried beneath my demand where only God can see it. Think for a moment about the child at the checkout who seemingly only wants a package of gum. Now ask yourself, will that package of gum satisfy once and for all her desire to obtain at will whatever she wants? Might her parent do her a favor by denying her the pack of gum on occasion, giving her instead better gifts of self-control, delayed gratification, and power over selfish whim? God has been revealing what lies beneath my frustration in a long term relationship. He has used the inattention of the other party much like a nutcracker. Up until this point, my hurt feelings seemed reasonable, justified, my unmet desire legitimate given our history. However, at the proper time, Omniscient God applied steady loving pressure, cracking the hard shell to expose the heart wherein lay hidden a deeper desire. This tender desire, to be enjoyed by another person for life, has not been dampened by repeated breakups in my youth, the death of my spouse, or changes in the relationship spoken of. Instead, I’ve constructed a tough shell, a barbed wire fence to protect myself from disappointment – to wall off the desire, avoiding the risk of feeling used and rejected. But the desire still escapes, like blood from a wound, soiling the nice white dressing, seemingly making a mess of things.
God is dismantling the fence, taking away with it fears I associate with being a seasonal need-meeter. Don't get me wrong, many people care for me and participate in meeting my needs, often in a mutual experience of loving one another!! And God knows I enjoy immensely addressing other people’s needs, feeling needed. But, to be purely desired, enjoyed, cared for in the holiest sense, "husbanded," that is a separate desire altogether. What does all this have to do with rest? Well, when I heard my feelings spill from the cracked shell and over my lips in a full blown tantrum, when I said aloud, “I’m done pursuing” – God said in a whisper, “Good! Now be still my love, REST, so I can begin to grant your true heart’s desire. I have better gifts for you. I will never use you to seasonally meet My needs. See Me above and behind all who are over you, and all who may for a time "need" you exclusive of "wanting" simply to know you. Rather, My love for you will compel the giving of yourself in service to others, in an incredible joint-venture and effort. Rest!! This meeting of your needs and desires is My business, not yours. Trust Me in the context of this fading relationship to give you far better gifts than you can imagine!!” I’ve quit kicking and screaming for "gum" and am pleased to report the conveyor belt steadily turns, loading my heart with benefits – peace, hope, healing, and REST. And, I've come to understand that fear of being used has robbed me of being enjoyed to the fullest extent!!
Enjoyed in His Shadow,Terry
For more inspirational reading, please visit Spiritual Sundays at www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com