It’s the thick of summer now. This morning, the locusts are humming and the humidity is high, and it’s not even 7:30! I have just returned from the last of three sorties out of state, and as I lay in bed last night, trying to get to a place of much needed slumber, I began feeling an inward fatigue. Not exhaustion – yet – but a red flag, a warning to be aware of what I was sensing internally. I’ve never scored high in what some might call self-awareness, so this was an important signal for me.
All three trips were not only tiring—how many miles in the car total? But they were also very relationship-building and relationship-affirming with other family members. As much as I truly love them all, and am so thankful for them all, it was still quite a time of “out-giving”. Now as I lay in bed, I began to feel overwhelmed by “the List”—all the things clamoring for my attention, and none of them wanting to stand in line and wait their turn.
Now, as I sit on the porch, I pray,
I cast all these cares upon You, Lord Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit, that You are my Guide, Comforter, Teacher. Thank You for grace for the moment. Show me how to fill up my soul’s tank, to be honest with my limitations and merciful with the limitations of others. Lord, protect me from over-responsibility and taking on what is not mine to do, not just in projects, but in people. Bless the works of my hands and the words of my mouth, because they are Yours. Show me how to open myself so that You can fill me up. Then, and only then, can I honestly pour out to others!
As if in response to my prayer, a yellow swallowtail butterfly lights to rest in the bush only a few feet away from where I am sitting. He spreads his wings, a living stained glass window, and I am reminded that pausing to admire and to attend to such beauty is, in itself, an act of worship to its Creator. Wait, and listen, and watch, and in these things, worship occurs.
Another one arrives and joins his twin! This second one I would have missed if I had not been paying attention. There is no nectar with this green bush, no feeding or pollenization happening. Nothing that business-as-usual would classify as “productive”. There is only the cool shade in an already dry, hot, and promising-to-be-hotter morning. And an important mystery begins to be revealed to me: all creation needs rest.
Is it possible to make a credible connection between rest and worship? Or is worship merely something we “do” when we sing on Sunday morning, and rest something we’d secretly rather be doing on Sunday morning? What if rest and worship can each be classified as a both a discipline and a joy?
The need for rest is not merely a consequence of the original Fall of man. No! It was indisputably God’s intention from the beginning of creation that we should take time for rest, not only physically, but in every other way as well. The Fall of man is, in actuality, reflected in our cultural attitudes typified by statements like, “Sleep is highly overrated.” Granted, sleep and rest are two different things, but everyone needs both. It is no accident that the Bible specifically records the 7th day of creation! (1)
Rest is a requirement for health in all areas of our existence. And rest requires patience, as we allow time for the brain itself, the actual physical organ that sits within in our skull, to recuperate from various levels of trauma, which include individual definitions of stress and overload. We want quick fixes, like emotional M.A.S.H. units providing temporary patches rather than complete healing and recuperation.
Now here’s the interesting connection: rest, and its companions—waiting and patience—are skills to be nurtured, even practiced. And these skills are exercised when we take time to worship God by purposefully diverting our attention from our lists to His beauty. Significant worship occurs in rest and reflection, as we are attentive to what God is providing for this moment. (2) Worship does not need to be boxed into a few songs during a worship service, but is expressed when we admire what God is doing right in front of us—in the smile of a child, in the gift of my friend’s big sunflower, or in the lighting of a pair of butterflies in the shade.
I guess even butterflies need rest.
- Genesis 2:1-3
- Psalm 84:1; Psalms 23:1-3
(excerpt from God Loves Gardens by Dawn Jones)