On Spinning Worlds Halting to Rest
The world, I discovered, spins on its axis at about 1,000 mph. Yet, we do not even notice it. We do not even feel it because we, too, are moving at the same speed. As I sit here typing these words, I am moving, silently spinning at 1,000 mph. And so are you. We would, actually, only notice it if the spinning were to
Our worlds stopped spinning 23 March, 2020. Many of us were moving to the rhythm of our days; commuting, coffees, and child care, and then, it all came to a sudden and abrupt halt. Plans have been ruined, weddings postponed, funerals restricted, birthdays alone. We tripped over and landed on the floor - some of us are still there.
I sit on the floor a lot. More so now. I lay on it. I sprawl out, I stretch out my arms, lengthen my torso and reach out with my feet. The floor is one of the few things that pushes back, holding us. Beige granules of carpet touch my hands. The grass, however, is even better.
The land is living. Each blade of grass is growing. And as I run my fingers through the grass, I make direct contact with life. The grass is breathing, and for a few minutes, I get to breathe right along with it, cushioned by thousands of microscopic pockets of air. Each blade buoys me up. When I sink, I rise. We face good days, fun days, mixed days, tough days, teary days, fruitful days, and empty days. We often feel as though we should be doing more, when we need to be doing less.
It is in the less where we often meet ourselves, and God greets us. John Mark Comer, in a recent podcast, shares the difficulty of less, well. He said he has never before experienced the 'bubbling up of brokenness' as much as now. Without our usual 'release valves', our brokenness bubbles up to the surface. We see our brokenness in the desire to control - futures, small children, our productivity. We want to order and arrange; we want to make concrete out of a lot sinking sand. We see our brokenness in our emotions - we may find ourselves angry, exasperated, unduly irked, irritable.
For me, it's more the burden of isolation. Living alone, I'm starting to find my own company tiresome - who knew I could be so wearying? (Don't answer that.) Thoughts start stacking up in my head like collectible rings. They clutter the desk of my mental furniture, and more mail keeps on arriving. No one gets to read it. And there'll only be more tomorrow. I'm collecting flowers, but with no-one to whom I can say 'Do you like them, too?' I collect flowers on good days, and rocks on bad ones. My guess is you do, too. Perhaps it's in the bubbling up of brokenness and in the glimpses of loveliness, that God wants to greet us. We often, however, think he'll do so in a minimal way; in a 'glass half empty' kinda of way, in a 'we shouldn't expect too much' kinda way.
In times of deprivation, change, and grief, we look out and often say to ourselves or to others, 'at least...' At least I/we still have (insert item, person, situation here). At least the sun is shining... at least we still have a roof over our heads... at least... The least, however, isn't a standard of measurement with which God is acquainted. It's not in his vocabulary of giving. Jesus is not the God of half full glasses. He gives to the least, but to the least, he gives the best. As Lore Ferguson Wilbert wrote, Friends when we are tempted to start a sentence to anyone walking through a different and hard season with the words "At least..." remember the God we serve only and ever gives the best in every season. He is not doing the least of anything in your life."
God is not doing the least of anything in your life right now. He wants to greet you in this season, wherever you are, with his abundance. He has not changed. The Son of God did not come in the flesh to ransack your bedroom of fun things because it's about time you learned a lesson or two about who was really in charge around here. He didn't come to steal from you. Jesus came so that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10.) God greets us with his best - his Son. He greets us in the life of Jesus, with the life of Jesus.
And what if being greeted by the life of Jesus means receiving rest?
Whether your days are full of fruitful activity, or you find yourself crawling to the end of the day exhausted by Zoom, grief, aching, inactive limbs, God does not give the least. He has come to greet you in your burdens, not to increase them. He is offering you a different, lighter one, or to remind you of it, of him, Jesus himself. He said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28, italics my own.) The gentleness and lowliness of Jesus is like refreshing rain after a drought. He brings rest in his wake, not burnout. (And yet, the reality is that we continue to struggle with low-grade weariness, especially now. If you can, have a read of John Mark Comer's latest book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, it may be an encouragement to you.) Jesus is gentle and lowly. He requires nothing of you or from you. He asks only that you bring your brokenness, your need, your burden, your weariness, and allow him to give you soul-rest. Perhaps the halting of our spinning worlds is an opportunity to rest.
So, lie down on the floor. Lay it all down. When you sink with Jesus, you also will rise with him.
Jesus delivers us through turning to him (repenting) and resting. "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." (Isaiah 30:15) The quietness is a gift, when it is coupled with trust. That is strength: resting quietly, reaching in wait, stretching out on the ground towards Jesus and then beautifully encountering that he is the ground beneath you, the living land.
Our worlds may have halted, but the world keeps on spinning. Before we begin to catch up with it, perhaps it's time for a breather, because maybe, just maybe, rising to our feet means continuing to lie down, pandemic or none.
"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy. 33:27.)
If you'd like to read biblical reflections on life in a pandemic, from dying to parenting, I have co-edited and contributed to the book, 'Healthy Faith and the Coronavirus Crisis: Thriving During COVID-19'. It is available to pre-order here. It is available for download on 5 May.