Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Rest

My recent blog series from The Daily Fast Fuel.

For years I have been on the hunt. Hebrews 4 alludes to its existence, so I trust it’s real. And yet, I often wonder why it hides away – or where it hides away. Striving I find easily. Rest, however, moves about my life with stealth and agility.

According to “etymological theory”, I should know a thing or two about rest. My last name means “rest”, after all. Well, technically it means “beside a place of rest, or beside an elm tree.” But in pre-colonial German, I can only assume this is what they meant – that place where little German travelers used to kick back while they adjusted their lederhosen and took solace in some shade. And yet, even my heritage has not gifted me with expertise in this area. On the unfortunate contrary, I am an award-winning striver. I wonder if you can identify.

This week we will be taking a spin through God’s word in pursuit of one of His most sought after and mysterious gifts: rest.

Matt 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

The Land of Rest

Rest met me at his gate. I rolled down my driver’s side window as he tipped his cowboy hat.

“Howdy, there. Good to have you here.” He welcomed with a toothy grin. “Pull around to the cottage over there. I’ll meet you on the front porch.

I did as instructed and soon met Rest at the cottage. He held a tray with two glasses of ice-cold lemonade and motioned me to sit on the porch swing. Classic. This is the Rest I knew.

“So, I hear you have some questions for me?”

I nodded swallowing a delicious sip of lemonade. “I want to know who you really are – how you really work. “

Rest smiled. I think he was enjoying our visit already. He leaned back in his rocker putting his hands behind his head, “Who I am and how I work, hmm?” He looked out on his land. It appeared to extend endlessly to the left and right of the cottage.

“Is this what you do?” I asked watching him rock, sitting on his front porch sipping lemonade.

“Partly,” he leaned forward folding his hands in his lap. “These are the Sabbath lands, the outer limits of the land of rest. Here you find physical rest. For some it looks like sitting on a front porch sipping lemonade, for others it’s a meal with their family, a nap, sleeping in, a walk through the park… Your Father knows your body needs rest. A people who rest reveal the glory of God.”

“The outer lands?” I questioned looking over my shoulder to more and more land behind us.

“Welcome to the house at the front gate.” He handed me a hat, and motioned to two horses tied up in the field directly left of the house,”Shall we?”

“They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you.” Exodus 16:29

“Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Exodus 31:13

Ancient Paths

I adjusted my hat to shade my eyes while admiring the fields of rolling grass on either side of us. The land of rest was beautiful. So peaceful. So majestic. The horses came to a halt beside a dry riverbed.

“Here we are,” Rest announced.

“Where are we exactly?” I asked.

“We are drawing closer. We have come inland from the lands of Sabbath – where your body finds rest – to the place where you find rest for your soul.”

Rest dismounted. I followed suit. He walked into the riverbed, hooking his thumbs in his belt loops. “Thus says the LORD,” He began, “Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16.”

I was clueless. What in the world was he talking about?

He looked at me again and instructed, ”Stand by the roads,” he motioned me towards the banks of the old river. “Ask for the ancient paths,” he continued, “where the good way is.”

I shrugged my shoulders, “So, I ask for the ancient path?”

He nodded, “Good, now walk in it.” He pointed to where he stood in the riverbed.

I walked out to meet him. “So, this is the ancient path, then? This riverbed? This is the good way?” I had many questions, though asking them ceased when I felt water begin to flow around my feet. Moments later, Rest and I stood knee deep in a river.

“Out of your mouth will flow rivers of living water,” He explained, “The soul finds its rest in reminding itself of where the water has flowed before- the ancient path – the promises of God and the testimonies of his faithfulness. Here, who He was meets who He is, and reveals who He will always be. The soul, prone to wander and prone to worry, finds rest in standing in and speaking of the tried and true flow of the goodness of God. “

It was still a bit much to get my head around. Rest could see that written on my face.

“Why don’t we follow the river, and see what it reveals?” He invited.

I nodded.

Trading Yokes

I didn’t mind getting wet. It was refreshing under the hot sun. Sloshing through the river with Rest was kind of enchanting really. I mean, how often do you get to do such a thing?

“Rest?” I bid him pause.

“Yes?” He turned.

I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a folded piece of lined paper. “There’s something I need to ask you.”

“Anything.” He smiled.

“Well, there’s this verse.” I unfolded my paper.

He nodded as if he already knew what was coming.

“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 lovely in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28)” I studied the verse on my paper again wondering if the answer might leap out at me under the circumstances, “How is it that His yoke is easy, again?” I shook my head in confusion, “I recall His life and that even the government rests on His shoulders? Just sounds like a little more than I could carry.”

“Who has the easier yoke – the slave or the freeman?” Rest responded.

I could only stare at him in want of an explanation.

“The slave will never find rest. The freeman will have it in abundance, though it comes with great responsibility. Christ came to break the yoke of slavery and invite you to take His yoke – one that simultaneously gives you access to rest and great impact. Following Christ invites rest and peace into your very soul. Slavery invites restlessness. I suppose the question is – which is easier for you to live under?”

I sighed.

Rest gently took my hand and led me on down the river. “There is more to see. We must go deeper.”

The Epicenter

The river flowed into a great lake as if it had done so for ages. Odd, of course, since it only began flowing two (blog) posts ago.

Rest and I made our way toward the bank of the river, finding dry ground to view the scene. Blue skies and gentle breezes soaked my soul with thankfulness for life and breath and good company.

Rest sighed. I grinned.

“This is some land you have here.” I whispered.

“The deeper you go, the better it gets.” He raised his hand and motioned to a large sailboat in the middle of the lake. “The epicenter.”

What was he talking about? I just stared at the boat, watching it careen over the waves in the lake. Though its size was large, its movement in the water was nimble. The large white sails danced with the wind.

“God spoke to Moses, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ (Exodus 33:14). Rest, you see, flows from His presence.”

“He is the epicenter.” I acknowledged.

“Rest for your body, rest for you soul, all of it flows from Him. When you operate from His presence, you are like the boat, posturing yourself to be moved by the unseen power of the Spirit. You must learn how to partner with Him, you must learn how to be with Him through the ebb and flow of life, because He is your source of rest.”

Rest walked towards the lake, “This is where we enter.”

Are we swimming to the boat? I watched Rest continue his pace towards the water. I was filled with so many thoughts and questions I didn’t realize five steps into the water, Rest was actually standing on top of it. My eyes widened.

He turned and held his hand out towards me, “ You can not enter without faith.”

When Strivings Cease

It didn’t take very long to walk to the boat and Rest was kind enough to hold my hand the whole way. Getting into the boat might have been the hardest part, in fact. A leg up and some strained upper body strength then I was on the deck of the boat. Rest spryly made his way up the side and joined me. I looked around curiously. Where is He?

“What are you looking for?” Rest asked.

“Him,” I said plainly, “this is the epicenter, yes?”

Rest nodded and then pointed to a small table by a pair of deck chairs. Atop the table unassumingly sat my Bible, full of random pieces of paper, notes, and old church bulletins like it always is. Interesting. I approached the table and reached for my Bible.

The moment my fingertips touched the cover – the parable vanished.

At once, I was sitting in the brown chair of our sunroom with a Bible open on my lap. The sound of water and sails were gone; the river and lemonade just imprints on my mind. And I sat, as I had begun, staring at Hebrews 4.

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest… (Hebrews 4:11).”

The great oxymoron. There is a striving in entering into rest. It requires focus and faith – and a renewed mind. Sometimes life is a raging sea and you have to walk on water to find it. Rest, I was finding, was more than kicking my feet up. Rest was being with Him.

Rest was when real striving ceased – the striving to please man or perform or make everyone around me happy. Rest was moving with God and knowing He had already made a way for me to be completely accepted and loved and cared for without my need to achieve anything. Ironically, rest could look every bit as active as striving – moving “great ships in the water”, but operated from a completely different motivation of the heart.

Rest was a welcome companion and a knowledgeable guide. I had enjoyed our journey together. But I was most thankful that pursuing Rest had led me right where I needed to be –to the presence of the King.

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