Rest as an act of worship
Yesterday, my son and I went out to find some milk and eggs. In normal times, I wouldn’t shop, since we have about a week’s worth already. But these are not normal times.
I pushed my cart down aisle after mostly empty aisle. Mounds of spice packets in perfect abundance, flanked by large gaps of space on either side, where presumably vinegar and oil were once housed. I felt my arms go numb and tingly as I watched a woman in a face mask and baggy, ill-fitting blue gloves, bend and grab a box on a lower shelf. I couldn’t see what she retrieved, I could only tell it was the very last thing on the long, empty aisle.
In my honest moments, I’ll confess I’m having a hard time accessing the water table of my soul, that sturdy current within me. I trust the waters still flow, steady and sure, I am just having a hard time getting there. Fear keeps me gasping for air, mumbling surface prayers at 3:44 am (which is, incidentally, when I’m typing this essay).
In this place of forced rest, with all my natural ballasts cut, I find myself drifting. Besides following the masses in hoarding toilet paper, what am I to do? As I laid awake in bed just now I remembered my son’s five-year-old face, the day after he accepted Christ. He asked me point blank, “but…mom…what do Christians…do??”I was as dumbfounded then as now. We want to help, prove useful at least. But how do we alleviate our anxieties through service when met with the request not to come too close? What are Christians supposed to do?
It seems, one overlooked thing: we rest when rest is given. God instituted Sabbath rest to His people in the wilderness, and gave instructions on stocking up and preparing food. Like the Israelites before us, we have no problem hoarding, but may echo their resting problem. God said, “Remain, each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day. So, the people rested.” (Exodus 16:29)
The instruction wasn’t to simply cease effort. In resting, they worked out in their physical bodies, a metaphysical reality often forgotten: There is a God, and we are not Him. It turns out we are not nearly as vital as we thought we were. God knows we run the constant risk of becoming human doings over human beings; forgetting we are dust and to dust we shall return.
Rest invites us into worship, and worship recalibrates us. We more readily recognize God for who He is, and more importantly, ourselves for who we are. We see how we’ve resisted vital practices of silence and solitude, not simply because we demand so much from ourselves, but because we are terrified to stop. We are afraid of what we will find in the silence.
Embracing rest when it is given does not contradict praying for those with real losses, financial and otherwise. It doesn’t oppose helping the sick and afraid and it doesn’t stop us from reaching out to those made much lonelier in these conditions. We could spend these days of quarantine in anxiety and handwringing, trying to be our own gods and failing. Or, we can humbly accept the invitation to worship a God who will never vacate His throne, who holds our lives in His hands, and who gives rest to those He loves.