Have you ever prayed for something, and not really expected to have it answered? And then it is answered, and you’re confused about the answering, and then you remember, “Oh, right. I prayed for this.”
Sometimes I end up in this situation and it’s messy. Like when I was a camp counselor and would pray for patience. He was always faithful to answer this prayer in very creative ways that occasionally involved Jell-o or sulfur-smelling-marsh-mud and required great (surprise!) patience.
But this time, it’s not messy. It’s just sort of….awkward. Like I’m Goldilocks, found sleeping in someone else’s bed.
What did I pray for? Rest.
I have my alarm set so that it wakes me every morning with one of my favorite hymns, Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul. I picked it because I love the hymn so much, and also because I thought it was kind of a funny thing to wake up to and it made me giggle to think about it. After a week or two of starting my day this way, humming the words throughout my mornings, I came to a surprising realization. There was no doubt that my soul was weary, but it didn’t know God as its refuge. Furthermore, I really wanted Him to be the refuge of my weary soul. And so I asked myself, “What can I do to know God as my refuge?”
It took a day or two for the irony of this question to sink in. I’m a recovering Good Girl, remember? I’m quite accustomed to setting goals, spiritual goals included, and accomplishing them. But then I realized that my means of attempting to gain the understanding was contradictory to the end. How can I learn that God is my refuge when I am striving and toiling to learn it? No, this is a knowledge that must be slipped into quietly, peacefully; like a cushiony chair and warm blanket on a snowy evening.
So I prayed for this knowledge. I probably only prayed that prayer once or twice before “more important” things bumped it off my list of regular prayer items. I forgot about it. But He did not.
My soul has been blissfully quiet this season. Surprisingly quiet. I might even say, my soul is screaming quiet. This is typically a season of gift-making-goodie-baking-tree-decking-carol-singing-candle-lighting-stocking-stuffing-grace-sharing joy; all manner of crazy-making in the best ways possible. And I really do love all of it. It is also a tender mourning season for me, when I remember the should-have-been-birthday of our first child, birthed in my heart but not from my body. And it is an anniversary season for my heart’s-wounds-that-will-always-be-sore, the ones from Pearl’s trauma-filled pregnancy. This is not a time for me to expect rest. And so you see why I am so surprised to find myself resting.
I have noticed my conversations with God going something like this:
Me: Hey, God. It’s pretty quiet in here. Don’t you have something for me to be thinking about?
Me: Umm….lots of room in here for some deep thoughts, God. Got something for me to be working on? Something you want me to take a closer look at?
Me: Self-examination?? Scripture study??? Piercing insights??? Anything?????
I’ve been having this same conversation for weeks, just waiting to be given some instructions; wanting to be shown something I can work on, some winding thought that I can untangle. But there’s nothing. At least it seems like nothing. But actually it’s everything. This peace, this quiet, this stillness is everything. It is completely unexplainable. It transcends logic, and it defies understanding. It can only be from Him.
Friends, my soul has long been searching for refuge. My spirit strives, and my flesh toils, all in a desperate search for peace and rest. It seems so obvious now, and I wonder why it never occurred to me that peace and rest is not something that can be won by striving. It is not earned. It is not reached through hard work and long searching. In fact, as long as I am being so active in searching and striving, it’s fairly a guarantee that I’m not going to find that rest. It’s in the ceasing, where the rest is found. And the passivity of the ceasing feels awkward to a girl who is used to being active in her searching. And yet that still, small voice whispers to me, “Rest,” the word breathed out long and slow calming the stormy waves in my soul.
It is good to be at His feet.
A small side-note about this season of rest: it makes for very uninspired writing. So please indulge me here on the blog for a season? There may be fewer thoughtful words than usual; and fewer poignant photos; or there may be even more. I don’t know where this season takes me. But I ever follow where He leads.
* For your reading (or singing) pleasure, I add a postscript in the form of the words to that loveliest of hyms:
1 Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On thee when sorrows rise;
On thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies.
2 While hope revives, though pressed with fears,
And I can say, “My God,”
Beneath thy feet I spread my cares,
And pour my woes abroad.
3 To thee I tell each rising grief,
For thou alone canst heal;
Thy word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel.
4 But oh! when gloomy doubts prevail
I fear to call thee mine;
The springs of comfort seem to fail
And all my hopes decline.
5 Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust;
And still my soul would cleave to thee,
Though prostrate in the dust.
6 Hast thou not bid me seek thy face?
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace
Be deaf when I complain?
7 No, still the ear of sovereign grace
Attends the mourner’s prayer;
O may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there.
8 Thy mercy-seat is open still;
Here let my soul retreat,
With humble hope attend thy will,
And wait beneath thy feet.