A journey eighty miles long and a load that grows larger each day. Sticks gouging sandaled feet. Blisters, hunger, and dust. More dust. Then rain. And mud. Strangers with stares that threaten peace of mind and lead to one-eye-open sleep. Hard ground beneath and the sky as a blanket.
After such an journey, the walls of the stable must have seemed like a fortress of protection to Joseph and Mary. The crude stone must have felt like a cushion of grace.
Refuged among the smells and sounds of livestock, Mary birthed the Savior.
At last, respite and sweet relief. Mary’s body finally—after nine months and eighty miles—rested.
There’s rest. And then there’s rest. Right? Normal rest is the shutdown of our bodies from fatigue, our nightly sleep, our collapsing into a chair and turning on the television.
But rest can also be that full emptiness (or emptied fullness) that comes when heart, soul, mind, and body fall still and enjoy a moment of communion with the God of the universe. This is the rest Mary must have felt after nine months of pondering the twist in her life, eighty miles of risky travel, and however many hours of hard labor pains.
Sometimes our journeys are eighty miles of unpleasantness. A desert crossing, not a cruise.
Maybe the carrying of your burdens mirrors the trek of Joseph and Mary. Sometimes the lifting of your foot and the walking forward is harder than the day before. You question why it has to be this way. But you know with Whom you journey. His arms will hold back the darkness, and your heart will find rest. You’ll be able to lay down—yearnings, blisters, and all—and find that sweet fullness that comes from surrender.
That is why you press on when you’d rather stop. That is why you take the next step. And then one more. Because the hope of what is ahead is stronger than the toils pulling from behind.
That is why He came. That you might have that place of rest, the refuge that sanctuaries you at the end of the journey.