The Bible calls us to rest in him, to enter into a life of peace and wholeness. Quite a few writers and preachers have confronted the pattern of the overfilled, frenetic lives that are common in modern society. In the 1970s when computers were being introduced, futurists were predicting a 25-30 hour work week. You probably chuckled inside at the absurdity of the reality of the unrestful world we live in.
But we must rest because as we rest, we realize that God is a work, that the Spirit of God is working within us stir up the hunger and thirst for righteousness. If we are ever going to move beyond our busy efforts to try and act hungry to the point that we truly are hungry for God's righteousness, then we must rest.
Sometimes I read books on the call to simplicity, rest and peacefulness. I read about people taking week-long retreats to be with God. I know pastor of a huge church who roles into the office at about 11:00 a.m. because he has his morning time with God everyday for a few hours at home. I’ve read about people who have quit their job to seek out God’s direction for their lives by traveling to Central America and visiting missionaries and churches. I read one book where the author spent an entire year seeking God at a retreat center.
I respect greatly the writings and teaching of all those behind the examples in the previous paragraph. I have learned and continue to learn much from them. However, I find it very hard to relate to the kind of rest in God from which they speak. All of them are either empty nesters or celibate. All of them are in full-time paid ministry positions. And all of them have a great deal of control over their schedules.
When I think about the call to rest in God, it can feel like an ideal that only special Christians get to do. The rest of us don’t get to rest like this. We get to go to work, raise kids and clean our houses. We get to sit in traffic, deal with difficult bosses and try to figure out what Twitter really is. Is reading about rest the only option for the rest of us?
Resting? Finding a place of rest in God feels like a pipe dream. With four kids. Two jobs. Most of the time I'm working in the middle of the night. (I'm writing this at 1:25 a.m.). Life is crazy.
In the past, I judged people who were in the place I am now. I assumed that they had bought into a way of life that was anti-Kingdom. But I was single or did not have kids yet. Now with four kids, everyday is another adventure of unpredictable somewhat controlled chaos. There are job demands, things to get done at home, friends to see and family connections to make.
This is reality. I once thought that we had to change reality in order to find rest. I assumed that we had to reconfigure our life situation so that we could do things like have morning quiet times that go until 10:00 or week-long prayer retreats are not an option. Now I realize that my sweeping judgments only created condemnation and did not help anyone. They don’t help me.
I can’t change the reality of my life. It is what it is. The place to start is to find God’s rest in the midst of our reality. I love the way Eugene Peterson translates a commonly quoted passage about how Jesus came to earth:
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish. (John 1:14)
The Word is another way that the Bible talks about Jesus. He came not as an angel or spiritual being, nor as a super human. He came to earth as one of us, with flesh and blood. In addition, he did not come to a place of great learning nor to a temple building or a church. He came to the common place of “the neighborhood,” the realm of everyday real life. He mingled and ministered to and with normal people of the day. God entered into the reality of people. He did not set up his ten on the outskirts of town and invite people to come to him. He went into their lives, into their messes, into their pain and disappointments.
Religion invites people to come out of real life and get our lives strait first. It calls us to become different so that we can line up with the predetermined notions of what life and spirituality should look like.
We tend to put our religious expectations upon prayer. We think things like, “I cannot relate to God that way. My life is crazy busy.” Or “I cannot enter into the rest of God. Look at my life. You don’t know the struggles I have.” Or “I’m not the spiritual type. I like church and all, but I’m just not that type that gets into that kind of stuff.”
If you think things like this, that’s ok. Most of us do more often than we want to admit.
But know this. Even if you life looks nothing like what God desires for you. Maybe your stress level is going out the roof. Maybe you are failing as a father and husband at every level. Maybe you’ve got issues that cause the worst of sinners to blush. But that does not change the fact that Jesus now comes into your neighborhood through the power of the Holy Spirit. Even though Jesus is physically sitting next to the Father now, he remains “in the neighborhood” of your life.
He comes into your workplace.
He comes into your car.
He’s with you as you try to be a good parent.
He’s there when you are watching TV.
He’s around you when you cannot sleep at night.
He’s there when you are on top of your game.
He’s there when the game is crushing you.
This is the anti-religion of our God. And because he is there, he brings his rest. He brings his peace. He brings stillness in the midst of your chaos.