By Kay Etheredge
It is easy to be a Christian and still be drowning. The waters of hurry and busyness come crashing over us and our nostrils burn hot and our lungs grow tight with the filling of all the expectations of others. We fill up our calendars and we reach for our screens and we think that next week will be better and next month we will rest and before we know it, we don’t know which direction to go to search for it. We are in a labyrinth of sensory overload and it’s easy to say it is a worldly thing to let ourselves get caught up in this but what if the road between the Christian way and the world’s way merge and begin to look exactly the same? The colors that were once pristine and separate now bleed unmistakably together and who really cares about the health of our soul? Who really cares?
We sing hymns and we pray and hold hands and say you are my brother and I will support you but in the end, we still raise our expectations and demands like a chalice and say, “drink this cup, do it my way, do this one more thing, for me.” We all say “meet my needs because mine are the ones that matter” and we have the heart pounding realization that sneaks in at 4 am that I can’t do this anymore.
My friend told me about visiting her mom in a nursing home. Her mom, in her nineties and suffering from dementia, didn’t recognize her own daughter, but when the attendant left the room her mom mouthed to her in silent panic, “Help me”. It broke my friend’s heart and broke mine to hear it and I told my husband this morning that I feel that woman’s fear. I look into the faces of total strangers and think “Help me” to understand how to find the end of this suffocating tunnel called hurry.
If we keep time with too many screens we lose time for anything meaningful, and I scroll through just one day’s inbox and see a list of demands disguised neatly and politely as invitations.
“Can I see you for just a few minutes?”
“How about lunch? Pick out a date”
“I need you to pick this up…ASAP”
“Don’t forget about the 25th”
“Can you look this over and get back to me?”
These are just a few; everyone has them, and how is it that some people’s offers of help sound sincere while others sound like an indictment? I made a list of books I wanted to read in the next few months and my husband came back from a conference where he had been given one of the books on my list. I began reading that very night and in the first chapter there was a quote by Dallas Willard that said, “You must eliminate hurry from your life. It is the biggest enemy to spiritual growth”. I let my fingers slide across that sentence several times. Such a powerful sentence, but how do we do it? We are handed lists by well-meaning people who suggest things to do in the coming year, and how I am coming to know that God is much more interested in our being than in our doing.
This past week we had the blessing of going to the Global Impact Conference at Shades Mountain Baptist Church and I pushed hard against going, not because I didn’t want to go but because it was another commitment…another obligation, sandwiched in between two very busy weeks. At the conference I heard one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard, and we were given gift bags that contained thoughtful things…tissues and candies and food coupons and there in the bottom was a ring holding together verses written in the form of prayers with my very own name filled in. I read, “Father, when Kay is weary, and heavy laden, call to her to come to You and give her rest. Encourage her to take Your yoke and learn from You, because You are gentle and lowly of heart , and she will find rest for her soul…”
I read them and wept and realized how close I came to missing this wonderful time. I allowed this beautiful gift to anoint me and minister to me and I wondered how total strangers could have known just what my needs would be on this particular night. The answer of course, is they didn’t have to know because they serve the One who did. We were humbled and a bit embarrassed because we were treated as missionaries and we felt somewhat like imposters but in the end the conference was a balm for our weariness and that is what it was designed to be.
The Old Testament tells us repeatedly that God gave the children of Israel rest on every side. It’s not the kind of rest we get from sitting in a recliner in front of the television. It is beautiful and needed soul rest. Rest from the expectations of others that draw and quarter us across dates on a planner. God longs to give us that beautiful rest. He places His spirit within us and His beauty all around us and His word bountifully within our reach, and sometimes we are just too busy to notice.
I find that I begin to resent even good things and begin to avoid anything that marks a big X on our agenda, rather than laying our agenda at God’s feet and asking, “What matters from this great list of demands, Lord, and would You sift through these for us and separate chaff from wheat because we don’t know how”. How slowly I am learning and how very patient and faithful He is and He asks me to take His yoke upon me instead of my own. It is in that moment that true rest comes. And soul rest is a beautiful thing.