When God makes me lie down
It is one of the most peaceful, satisfying and happy feelings to watch your child sleep. After all the noise and activity of the day, to see them (finally!) at rest and knowing they will be restored and renovated in their rest.
So why is it that we love seeing our children sleeping (not only so we can get a break!) but we think for some reason sleep is just a necessary evil for us as adults? Don’t get me wrong, I love sleeping, but some days I wish I didn’t have to! I wish that if I stayed up a couple of extra hours I wouldn’t feel it so badly the next day!
Inside of me is a non-biblical belief that sleep and rest are just necessary but annoying things I have to do in order to be able to keep working. If I love watching my children resting, why do I find it so hard to believe that God delights in seeing me at rest too? Maybe David could identify with that when he wrote ‘He makes me lie down in green pastures’ in Psalm 23. Sometimes we don’t see the blessing and beauty in a God who designed our bodies for daily rhythms of rest. He designed us to be able to work hard for a few short hours and then to need some downtime, a break. Even within a day, God created food to provide necessary breaks and ‘forced rest’ from our activities but still we so often try to grab something quick to eat whilst we carry on with whatever we are doing.
Maybe it is now that my children are leaving the toddler stage and so I don’t have to be on my feet all day chasing them around that I feel lazy sitting down for ten minutes. Or maybe I just haven’t embraced fully the beauty of rest and work rhythms in the day. This past few weeks, however, God has been specifically talking to me about taking the moments of rest that do present themselves.
Last week I was feeling discouraged and not at all enthusiastic about trying to get Daniel and Joel to engage in homeschool activities. I didn’t have the energy for fun crafts, nor the patience to try and engage them in their book work. I didn’t even feel like reading to them, which is what I often start with on the mornings I struggle to get going. The boys were happy playing so rather than spoil the peace I went upstairs, found my husband Mark on the bed (who was getting frustrated trying to do admin on his laptop) and I snuggled in next to him and lay my head on his chest. What happened next was one of the most intimate moments we have had, but not in that way! I can’t remember how, but the next thing that happened was that Mark was breathing deeply and I was resting in his arms as he fell into a deep sleep for about 10 minutes. I sat there first feeling guilty about wasting time and then as I realised the gift of rest God had given us I began thanking God for the moment to rest together and fully embrace a much needed moment of rest. Being connected in an unexpected moment of rest was incredibly intimate and refreshing.
Brought to mind in the past week has been that beautiful passage where the disciple John leans on Jesus at the last supper. What image of love, intimacy in friendship, peace and rest. I want to be able to fully embrace those moments of rest that God is giving me in the journey of my day and not feel guilty about relishing in moments of leaning on Jesus. And those moments are there! They may not be a two-week holiday but they are enough! I love Ray Vanderlaan’s explanation of Psalm 23 and how shepherds like David would have led their sheep to green pastures to rest, but that they are not the bright green English rolling hills we imagine. Rather they were dry areas of land with tufts of grass here and there. The sheep often needed to be led to the grass by the shepherd because it wasn’t necessarily abundant. But it was enough. Sometimes I have been tempted to despise the small moments of rest as not enough so not worth having, but as I have recently taken those small spaces, even two minutes to shut my eyes and pray and breathe deeply or a quick 20 minute nap, it makes such a difference to my day. I remember that I was made to be.
My prayer is that I would not believe the lie anymore that I need to keep going from dawn to dusk, but that I can embrace moments of rest. Not only that I can, but that I should - I am being invited into a gift of rest from my Saviour from the stress of the day and I should not feel guilty about it, but embrace it.
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