Far be it for me to not believe even when my eyes can't see
and this mountain that's in front of me will be thrown into the midst of the sea...
so let go my soul and trust in Him.
The wind and waves still know His name.
The wind and waves still know His name.
-Bethel, It Is Well
You might remember that back in October I posted about a retreat I signed up for. Really at the time I just desired nothing more than to find refuge in the quiet stillness of nature before the Lord. I was feeling exhausted and in need of rest. Days before I heard about the Return to Rest Retreat I almost booked my own retreat in the woods. In a way that only God could do He provided rest in a much more profound way than I would have found on my own.
I'm still processing all of this, really. But it has totally changed my past week and I expect it will continue to change me for a long time. We talked a lot about rest and how rest is just as glorifying and honorable to God as work is.
On the first day at our retreat one of our questions during our quiet time was "What is burdening or worrying me now?" In my journal I wrote things that I am not even sure if I realized had been burdening me. Some of the things I listed, work - being unhappy and unfocused, feeling lonely and isolated, always so busy - no time to slow down - if I rest I feel really lazy and guilty, being unmotivated to take care of myself.
I could write a whole blog series on everything that changed for me at RTR but it's my burdens that God showed me how to remove that has most changed this past week. At work I've been really struggling to focus and to apply myself. I have not felt fulfilled. I come home and immediately switch into my comfy clothes and pretty much crash on the couch. Not having energy to do much besides scroll my social media feed. I didn't realize it but these behaviors have really been weighing me down.
My eyes were opened during the retreat. No matter where I work, I should work diligently as I'm working for the Lord. Gosh, I know that! Why haven't I been doing that? We talked about how working hard allows us to rest hard on our Sabbath day. Because I've been doing just the bare minimum to get by, my rest was not fulfilling. I was overcome with feelings of guilt and "I should be doing this" and "I really need to do this" and the things I didn't do were building up and pressing on my heart. It was suffocating my rest.
Because we are made in the image of God we are to follow His example. God set the cadence of our week when He created the earth. He worked 6 days and rested on the 7th. God took this rest so serious that in the Old Testament there was a law that would put a person to death who worked on the Sabbath. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God....For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. - Exodus 20:8-11
Honoring Sabbath is a sign that we are Gods people. We need to decide this is a priority and honor Gods word. We should not be prideful 'Who am I to think that I don't need to rest?' We need to make sure we are not putting ourselves above God.
How can I live in the tension of knowing work is valuable without making it an idol? How do I do this with anything? I must walk in the spirit. I need to use discernment and make time for rest. Which means working hard so I can purposefully rest. I need to plan to rest, put it in my calendar as a date with the Lord and then purposefully spend time with Him. If God is to be my number one relationship, He needs more of my time than any of my friends, any of my online endeavors, any of my dreams and hopes, and most certainly more than my work. As a Christian my work should look differently than the rest of the worlds. For me personally, I know that means giving more grace. To remain humble and keep the reminder that I'm only human too. Finally, not to let work run my life but instead to let God run my life.
I thank God for His new promises and for His new covenant with us. Because of Jesus we don't have be perfect at meeting rest. It's a reminder of grace. There will be a days that I mess up, in fact I already have. I've reminded myself in these moments that I belong to the Lord and that Jesus came as a salvation for me. It's about grace not perfection.
Rest is spirit, body and soul. To fully enter rest with the Lord and to feel satisfied in my rest, I need to allow all three of these things to find rest. Spiritual rest comes from repentance, a word which originated from the meaning to change ones mind on purpose. When I repent it's to do so with the intention of changing my habits on purpose so that I don't fall into the same place (though how often I still will!). Physical rest means giving myself a day off from working hard. Just like an athlete training for a marathon will take a day to let their muscles rest and heal, we need to do the same from our work. No matter what it is. Soul rest is tied to our emotions. Return O my soul to rest. We need to give ourselves a new outlook and perspective. Our soul needs rest to prepare for the eternal rest that we will one day have.
When I came home I found myself so rejuvenated. I have been working hard at work and at home. I've accomplished more than I could have imagined and my apartment has never looked cleaner! :) I am finding the upkeep is so refreshing. I'm sleeping so deeply at night and that's really life changing. Yesterday I spent about 5 hours just reading my bible and resting and it was so awesome. While most women went into this retreat needing to seek rest from their work, I came out finding that I needed to be working harder. I found new encouragement to want to do these things and my rest has been so much more fulfilling. It's the rest that I've been yearning and fighting for but never quite receiving. It's quite an amazing place of rest to be!
The ladies that I met were just the sweetest. It was really sad to leave, I drove home and wished that we all could have stayed together longer. Just as we were really starting to connect on a deeper level it was time to leave. I'm so incredibly blessed. Beyond words. I have cried just thanking God for the opportunity. Truly my heart is so touched that I got to be part of this experience. I could write for days about how beautifully sweet it was. Nothing will ever take away these memories. It was such a beautiful experience. I have never felt so adored and loved by people who didn't know me as quickly as I did at this retreat. If you get a chance to go in the future, GO. But in the words of John Piper I will say no matter what you do, "Take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach His word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for."
I have turned a corner. I feel it in my soul. It's not because of the rest, but because of the experience. In my heart I know that I have made a step that will help pave the way in the future. I finally am starting to feel loved and cared for. I am realizing that there are people out there who like me and it's pretty big. I have put a lot of pressure on myself and some have come from outside sources as well. Words that I'm not enough, that I don't have any hope for a future, that if this guy could treat me this way with knowing what he did, then I must have deserved it. Finally my heart is starting to believe the truth, that these are just lies. I've known they are lies, yet never believed. Putting myself in this place with women I had never met before and not knowing if I would fit in, if I would have the right words to say, or if I would interpret the messages the same way as everyone else really scared me. I didn't feel adequate enough, but God is peeling back those layers of hurt slowly and showing me that I can fit in. That I'm appreciated and I can speak into others hurt just as well as they can speak into mine. It doesn't matter how I interpret the messages because what I'm hearing is what God is speaking directly into me.
I'm so ready for this new beginning. To see the chains broken off that I've carried for 32 years. I'm ready for the life that God promises me. His goodness that will be so much more than I can hope or imagine. Here's to working hard so I can unfold those plans He has for me. Here's to resting hard so I can find the rejuvenation to keep going. Here's to working hard so I can Sabbath hard!
"Rest is sweeter when you work hard."
here's a few places to check out the retreat. :)