When you’ve had a long day and you want to rest, what do you do? Put your feet up? Read a book? Watch TV? Chat on the phone? Rest, to us, often means changing our activity from more strenuous to less or non-strenuous. If we were cooking, laundering, or doing chores around the house, rest means a sit down activity, perhaps napping. We send our children off to rest time and intend for them to either sleep or play quietly in one place. Rest is the cessation of motion, the pullback from duties, and the shutdown of sweaty work.
Sometimes we transfer this understanding of rest into the spiritual realm, thinking that spiritual rest is merely quietness before the Lord, or the pause of our holiness efforts. We might think of spiritual rest as the listening moment in prayer. We stop our asking and give God five seconds to answer.
On the contrary, spiritual rest goes much deeper than ten minutes of sitting down with Bible in lap. Spiritual rest is the dynamic movement of grace in our lives. This rest happens in the river of grace, and rivers have currents. Right now, the river by my house has a swift current, thanks to several days of steady rain. If I “rested” in that river on an innertube, I would be moving, not still. Likewise, spiritual rest is a ride on God’s innertube. We are carried along by grace and live the spiritual life on his terms. We stop trying to move ourselves along. We take our hands off the equation of holiness. You know, the equation that goes:
Hard Work + Following the Bible + Jesus = Righteousness
(We aren’t so stupid as to completely take Jesus out of the equation)
Great amounts of activity happen as we float along. We laugh with others who are also tubing down God’s river. We pull others off shore and into the grace current. We grow in the fruit of the Spirit.
Enough metaphor. Spiritual rest, like the physical, takes time. We have to spend time reading the Bible, praying and listening, talking with others about spiritual things, and worshipping regularly with other believers. God does not give us the equivalent of a five-hour energy shot. There are no shortcuts with spiritual rest.
Perhaps this is why I am so tired. I cut the corners on spiritual rest like I do on physical rest. My life is an irractic, routine march. Trying to bring consistency to my spiritual rest is about as successful as my current potty-training efforts with my three-year-old. And thus the tension. I need rest. I need grace. But I’m busy doing, doing, doing. Doing and rest are juxtaposed in my life, and seemingly contradictions. But rest happens where all the doing meets all His grace, when I realize that the movement that seems chaotic, when done in relationship with the Father, is actually a place of rest.