Last week Joe went to Ethiopia and I binge watched three seasons of cooking shows on Netflix and devoured three pints of Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond Ice Cream. That’s just for starters. They say confession is good for the soul, so there you go. Embarrassing? Well, yes, but there was a redemptive quality to my downfall that I hope I can articulate here.
People at times ask me how our transition is going, but as I noted in my last blog, the word God gave me for this year isn’t transition, but rest. How is my rest going? That’s a tricky one. First, I am a planner by nature, hard-wired to envision the future, to lay down tracks for myself and others who might appreciate the guidance. When I’m not planning, I’m looking back, learning from the past so I can regroup to do better next time. But in this moment, there is nothing to plan or organize, no ministries to oversee, no messages to prepare. I am in transition, which seems like a perfect time to rest, right? Not so simple.
The sluggish pace surfaces insecurities about who I am when the doing stops.
Rest, it seems, means learning to sit with the now, to embrace, experience, and enjoy it for all its worth. But something in me resists. The sluggish pace surfaces insecurities about who I am when the doing stops. Empty spaces loom large, like a bottomless pit I must avoid. It’s hard to rest when you’re on the run, even if from your own demons.
The passage on rest that has spoken deeply to me these past few days is a warning the prophet Isaiah gave the Israelites. The story was that Assyria was going to destroy them, and the best outcome they could hope for was years of captivity. Their national identity was about to be obliterated, so it only makes sense they would look for solutions—like getting help from Egypt, Assyria’s enemy. I can imagine how outrageous God’s idea sounded to them: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)
Four simple words: return, rest, quietness, trust—this was their mandate and the one I’m learning to immerse myself in as well. Here’s my paraphrase:
Do you want to experience wholeness? Then for now you must pull away and embrace the quiet. Do you want to become stronger through the struggle? Then you must learn to embrace the sobering stillness, and put your confidence in me alone.
So, while my default is to pack every minute I can with busywork, to prop up my identity with productivity, God is calling me instead to sit with the now...
So, while my default is to pack every minute I can with busywork, to prop up my identity with productivity, God is calling me instead to sit with the now, to trust what is rather than what will be, to ignore the niggling doubts about my future and resist the futile assessing of my past. This rest may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but in some weird way, I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
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Tricia McCary Rhodes
Passionate about spiritual formation, slightly obsessed with technology and the soul, author of 8 books, affiliate professor at Fuller Seminary, wife of one, mom of two, grandma of four.