What if I Rested?

by Rob Gibson  July 14, 2016

Post #10 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical Journey…

I was sitting in Starbucks watching a baby boy fall gently asleep in his young mothers arms. He was so peaceful and secure, wrapped in her tender embrace. She gently stroked his forehead, his eyes closed, and his little body melted into her arms. He hadn’t a care, totally unaware of the concerns mom, dad and I discussed. He was safe, secure, deeply loved, and in that love he rested well.  I thought to myself, just give me thirty minutes of rest like that and I could run for a week. Do I know how to rest like that? 

My sabbatical was about rest, but rest is difficult for a workaholic fixer. With so much to fix and reform, how the heck can I rest?! It’s a skill we are born with, like this little boy, and then it seems the woes of the world can wrestle it from us with life consuming burdens. 

The burdens are many: paying the bills, satisfying customers, keeping the kids safe and on track, satisfying the boss, can’t loose this job, gotta make quota, terrorist strike again, need to connect with friends, save for retirement, people are protesting in Dallas, what about a vacation, fixing the car, mowing the lawn, a liar or narcissist is going to ruin the country, got to finish the basement or she’ll be angry, how will we afford college, insurance is killing us. That’s enough to keep me up at night.

The list has so filled my mind for years that I stopped dreaming long ago, or at least I rarely remember my dreams. I’m told I dream, but I remember less than a handful of dreams. A party with Taylor Swift (go figure), a hike in the mountains, a board game on white fluffy clouds. When I was younger, I dreamed, I walked in my sleep, then early in our marriage I talked about work in my sleep – to my wife’s chagrin. Then, until recently, things went blank – no dreams.

I have felt guilty resting. A subtle guilt if I sat to watch golf or took a ride on my motorcycle to nowhere in particular. Guilty because if I’m not moving, and moving with purpose, I have no purpose, no value. It’s a jacked up lie, but a workaholic that performs to earn value isn’t going to rest except when it’s physically demanded. I wanted to rest like that baby. I was certain I had to have it, and I was hopeful it was possible. After all, Jesus said: 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

That sounds fantastic, but how do I access this rest? Maybe a better question is, who snatched it from me? What lying dog told me I had to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and fix so much stuff?That little baby was resting in his mothers arms, unconcerned with the woes of the world or our troubles; he simply rested in the loving and trusted arms of mama. I want that! 

To rest, I have to continually reclaim a couple of truths, and kick some lies in the hind-quarters. The lie to silence is, “I’m responsible for everything and I have to fix ‘it’ and everyone.” That is way above my pay grade and human capabilities, and turns me into an agitated control freak. The truth I need is the doctrine of rest. It’s one you’ve probably never focused on, but it’s there. We see it when Jesus says:  

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

This is so freeing because, in essence, Jesus says we can do our work (scatter seed) in the daytime, then go to sleep. Further, while we sleep stuff grows and we don’t know how! In other words, it’s not our responsibility to make it all happen. I am not responsible for the outcome. I don’t have to fix everything or everyone. I am not God and I am not in control. I know this, it’s my heart and soul that need to catch on. I do my best (and even when I don’t he gives me grace) and go to bed and trust the outcome to God. God is responsible for the growth, the result – the harvest.  

This truth gives me the opportunity to lay down my work and rest. It sets me free to breathe deeply, relax, connect to my heart and begin to trust God. This truth welcomes me, at 54, to rest secure as a child in the tender loving arms of my Savior. It invites me to know I am deeply loved, safe, and able to dream again. 

The Illusion of Control

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night overcome by fear? I don’t mean the kind of fear that somebody’s breaking in and trying to kill you. I can fight that fight, or send Margaret to do it. What I mean is the kind of fear that goes deep in your soul. The fear that I could lose my job and not be able to care for my family. The fear that I have not planned appropriately, social security is crashing, and my resources won’t be enough to take care of me in my old age. The fear that if I don’t get busy, get the job done, cover all the bases, save twice as much as I’ve been saving, spend half as much as I’ve been spending, get smart, don’t mess up, run faster and harder, I’m screwed – but that probably won’t be enough either. This is my version of a paralyzing fear that life is coming apart and I can’t control any of it.

It doesn’t happen to me often, but recently at 3AM, while on sabbatical in Colorado, I woke to such a terror. It was triggered by a conversation with a guy that seemed to have it all together. He seemingly saved wisely, planned thoroughly, made good money and was expecting a very healthy retirement, in my opinion.  He similarly wasn’t sure he could live on what he had saved, but it seemed sufficient to me. At 3AM that night I was pretty freaked out; certain my financial ship was too little and the waves too big and everything was way out of control.

If you’re reading this and you’re under 40, this may not resonate with you financially, but it may in other areas of life, like your career, family, worn out cars, or other things that seem out of control. Regardless of the issue, it’s the fear that you’re really not in control of your life. Fear that you cannot protect your children from harm, fearful that things aren’t working out in your world. Fear that terrorism, money, relationships, work, the future is beyond your control.

Of course, things are not ordinarily way out of your control, because you can plan, save, lock your doors and protect your family as best you know. You do your best, forget the rest and normally that seems to work. But still you make mistakes, and stuff happens. And if you think about the bad stuff that could happen, or the good stuff that may not, or when unexpected stuff happens (you can insert a shorter S word here) sometimes it’s messy,  painful, and frightening. We face the reality that we are not in control.

The reality is, beyond the best application of our wits and wisdom, the best application of our gifts, the best planning we can fathom, and the realization we are not always at our best, things are really not in our control. You and I are but one person among nearly 7,000,000,000 humans on the planet and in addition to them, there are 700 billion variables including astroids, atom bombs and even weather anomalies that can take us out in the blink of an eye.

So if you weren’t terrified, maybe you are now. Welcome to my 3AM experience. Misery loves company, let’s freak out together. Or let’s let go of our illusions together.

The truth is I am not in control, and neither are you. The illusion of control is a lie of the enemy. It is a lie meant to steal our joy by filling us with fear and anxiety.

Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

If the enemy can convince us that we are in control, or must strive to be in control, then he’s convinced us that we need be our own god. The lie from the beginning (Gen. 3) is, Turn from God, be your own god, take control! If we buy the lie then we grab at a task that is far too great and burdensome. The job will wreck us; it is a weight we cannot bear and a burden well beyond our capacity. But if we demand to be in control, our joy will be stolen and our peace destroyed. Joy will be replaced by anxiety as we seek to manage things beyond our control; subtly, slowly and frantically we become aware that things will not go well under our control. To depend on self, to cling to self and illusions of control will kill us.

The alternative is to lay down our illusions and live, accepting that we are not in control and that’s ok, God is. To walk in the light of the love of Christ, trusting he is in control and for our good (Ps 118:1; 1Cor.1:8-9; Phil 2:13; Heb.10:23). This feels vulnerable and out of control, because it is a vulnerable place of trust. It is a choice to rest in the safe, strong arms of our Sovereign Father.  It is a choice to live abundantly as His beloved child, not our own master.

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1Thes 5:25).