I sat on the edge of the dock with my legs dangling off. My feet were flat upon the water as though I could step out on the lake at any moment. The space was calm. A slight breeze swayed the tree branches. The children found playmates with the pebbles, mud castles, and fish freshly caught. I sat there cupped in God’s nature with my heart racing. I was unable to be as calm as the water. After three days of being at the lake, I still didn’t know how to rest. For some, rest comes easy; for me, it feels like work.
I am good at being productive. I am good at being busy. I like the pressure and clock ticking and deadlines. Those powers energize me. I like using my imagination and managing people. But being here, at the family lake house makes me antsy. There is no place to be and nothing I have to do. I almost feel naked. I don’t know what to do when I have nothing to do. My body, mind, and soul need rest — I know this. But I fight rest with everything in me. Rest means wrestling with the deeper things I have been avoiding. When everything on the outside of me gets quiet then everything on the inside of me gets loud. It’s unsettling, and I want to run out on the water where my feet find ease. I want to run away from me.
I’ve taken the role as the “fishing supervisor” this vacation so I can spend a bit more time lounging and messing with the best online gambling sites in Texas on my tablet, and the children repeatedly bring me their tangled fishing wire. Which means this task requires focus, patience, and gentleness. While fishing with children there are three things you won’t find: focus, patience, and gentleness. I send them off while I give all my attention to the massive knot they have managed to whip together. I’m tempted to yank and pull and throw the whole bundle of chaos away. But I wait. I slowly tug and massage the tangles apart. An unraveling begins. It doesn’t happen all at once. It is a process. If I get frustrated, the knot gets worse. If I take my time and use careful intention, the knot loosens.
As I slowly pull at the corner of the wire, I wonder if this is what God is doing within me. He is using focus, patience, and gentleness to undo the knots that have built up in me. Maybe that’s what rest is about. I’m coming back to God with my mess, and He uses love to untangle me. This renewing of my soul requires that I also practice focus, patience, and gentleness. If I fight back, more damage is done. But if I stay and allow God to care for my soul, my insides will loosen. I will be soft. God, in a literal sense, is a fisher of (wo)men. He doesn’t just catch lost souls, but He has compassion upon them and wants them to be free—untangled. For my soul to become untangled, I have to stop. I have to exhale. I have to rest.
Resting doesn’t come easy for me. I have to work at rest. I have to be okay feeling antsy and anxious just sitting at the edge of the dock. I have to feel the mess I have been avoiding. I have to look at the chaos and tangles and knots choking my chest tight. I have to let the outside beauty penetrate my inner storm. And God does this. He does this by gently untangling me one tug at a time. This time, instead of running, being busy, or avoiding, I stay. I let God do His work on my soul.
I want a lot of things in life, but one thing I desperately want is to be free inside. I don’t want hooks and wires mangled up inside of me, making it hard to breathe. I want to be fully present with the world, others, and God. The only way to be productive at anything is to learn how to rest — truly rest. At first, it might be painful. I’ll want to squirm and find something else to do. But when I give God space to tend to my soul, a beautiful freedom awaits me.
I need God’s help to rest. I need His grace to hold me as effortlessly as that dock. I am rocked and carried. God’s presence hovers over me like the trees bringing me shade. I need grace to not accomplish something. I need grace to let the tugging make me uncomfortable. I need grace to sustain me when rest feels like work. The truth is, rest is work. God is doing healing work inside of me. He is untangling and setting me free.Leave a Comment
Thank you for this fresh perspective on rest, Anjuli. I completely identify with getting energy from being productive, but hadn’t realised why I struggle to rest and do nothing. Thank you for showing me that by resting I let God do some of his wonderful work.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Beautiful post! I got this crazy image in my head while reading your post. It’s like we’re riding a bike and the “surgeon” is having to run alongside us to try to provide life-saving surgery. It’s ludicrous to think that a surgeon would have to catch up with us in order to save our life. Likewise, God, the great Surgeon, needs me to be still and resting (not running and moving) in order to perform the necessary work on my heart. If I know what’s good for me…I will rest. Sometimes the very hardest thing is to just…be…still.
What a true and timely word this morning. When our world seems upside down, unpredictable or not going the way we had imagined it would, our first response (my first response) is to try to fix it. I will exhaust myself looking for answers and ways to make things better, fill my time with busyness so I don’t have to slow down and feel the tangled mess I have somehow managed to weave. God knows this tangled mess. He loves every part of this tangled mess. He knows me intricately because he knit me together in my mother’s womb. He knows the trials I would face. He has the answers I am seeking (in my own strength, and failing miserably). He knows exactly what is needed to slowly and carefully untangle these messy inner workings, that I may be whole, healed, and fruitful in his name. But first, I must empty my hands of striving to figure it out, rest at His feet and listen for His voice.
Ooooh. What a great analogy!! I loved it.
Jasmine Ruigrok says
Oof, this is a hard hitter for me. I’m going away next week to rest, having not had a week off since November last year. Work is my default, and I’ve wracked up so many unhealthy habits of staying up late, skipping meals, bottling emotions, keeping people at arms length while I work my tail off in ministry. What a combo. One of my aims in going away is to both rest, and rework my routines into something sustainable. Working to rest is such a timely concept for me. Thankyou.
Lisa Hetrick says
Is seems I needed this message to speak right into my heart this morning. Thank you Anjuli. So grateful to you.
LOVED this! Needed it today. Thank you for sharing and I loved all the comments too.
Thank you Anjuli! This post helped me. I am feeling all tangled up in these crazy times and can always use the reminder to allow God to do his work in my heart and soul.
Thank you again friend!
Beth Williams says
Women, especially, feel the need to keep moving. There is always so much to do, or so we think. We feel like we have to do it all or it won’t get done-or not done right. May be we feel the need to prove ourselves. Perhaps we’re afraid that God will find out our deepest secrets or reveal something in us that we don’t like. No matter the reason God needs us to be still in order to do a work on & in us. It is only when we stop our striving that we can allow God to heal our weary souls & input His peace into our hearts & Minds. Now more than ever with all the pandemic, civil unrest & election madness we need God to help settle & heal our worn out weary souls & bodies. We need tranquil times to just be & know that He has this. Jesus went away prayed & rested from His labors. How much more do we need this now!
Nancy Ruegg says
I’m another one who has to fight against perpetual busy-ness. With you “I want to be fully present with the world, others, and God. I, too, need grace to not accomplish something.” It’s definitely a learning process for some of us! Thank you for sharing your insights, Anjuli.