The Task Ends With Peace

When the Lord gives rest to your kindred, as to you, and they too have occupied the land that the Lord your God is giving them beyond the Jordan, then each of you may return to the property that I have given to you. — Deuteronomy 3:20, NRSV

If you’re like me, you have wondered when everything finally stops. Life is a constant, tiring journey full of stressful decisions, twists and turns, hills and valleys. For the person of faith, concerned with the improvement of the world based on their belief system, this is made even more difficult by the constant clash between one’s ideals and the seeming reality of earthly life. For every step we take forward, it seems that we are given yet another series of challenges to face.

Therefore, when joy in our progress is constantly hindered by new challenges, it is only fair that we sometimes wonder when it all will finally stop. Isn’t there some checkpoint that we get to when the veil peels back and we are able to just coast? Unfortunately not, my friend.

You see, the effort of changing one’s world by way of God’s grace is a life-long trek sustained by faith, hope, and (above all) love. In the text for today’s post, Deuteronomy 3, Moses recaps his conversation with the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, all of whom having been allotted terrain beyond the Jordan before Israel’s formal entry into the Promised land (verses 12-16). The temptation must have been strong for those tribes to settle, so Moses instructs them to continue in the journey until “the LORD gives rest to [their] kindred” (verse 20). The Israelite journey began together, and it will end together.

The same essential truth is evident in our lives. Only when peace, justice, and wholeness are a reality for all can our efforts cease. As such, it stands to reason that it is only “when the complete comes” that we will achieve the rest we seek (1 Corinthians 13:10). The life of faith is not a checklist that, once fulfilled, allows us to rest on our laurels. It is a journey to the day when Christ comes in final victory and we all experience the blessed feastĀ together.

So perhaps you have been sprinting through life. In spurts, you make progress only to be slowed by even more derailing challenges. In that case, it is best we examine how to consistently sustain our efforts to share the light and love of God in Christ with the world. We must exhibit the humility to accept our constant room for growth, stay connected to God through prayer and ritual, and regularly commit acts of charity that we may embody the peace we wish to one day experience.

It is important to note that Moses assured the tribes that the day would come when they could rest. I am offering the same words of encouragement. The day will come when you and I see and understand the fullness of God and become partakers in it. We will have our rest. For now, however, we must be content with the little glimpses we are allowed through our everyday interactions with the Divine.

With every kind word and action, with every embrace of the Eucharist and other rituals, and with every moment spent in community with the Spirit, we are able to foster an enduring sense of joy that will be brought to completion at the appointed time. It is my prayer that you will join me in our long journey together. May we all earnestly tread the road of Life, helping each other experience a little bit of Heaven all along the way.

Peace be with you!

The Holiness of Nothing

And you shall do no work on this same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. — Leviticus 23:28, RSVCE

I was thumbing through Leviticus 23 this morning, which addresses all of the major feasts and festivals to be celebrated by the nation of Israel. I noticed the ideas of Sabbath and rest occur pretty frequently in this passage, and so I thought, “What better topic for a Monday than rest?” Indeed, I think it is an underappreciated mandate of the Old Testament, especially for all that Hebrews has to say about it.

In our current non-stop, competitive culture, “rest” is what you do when you have a little spare time. Rest is what we are to do after we clock-out, finish our various tasks, and squeeze every last ounce of productivity from our bones. Too often, our notion of “rest” is limited to the 5-ish hours of pseudo-sleep we allow ourselves before doing it all over again.

This refusal to recover contributes to our obesity and heart disease crisis, in addition to negatively impacting our relationships with God, ourselves, and each other. We even wear our exhaustion and poor health as a badge of honor, bragging about who sleeps, eats, or uses vacation days the least. On the other side, those who miss work or nap are considered lazy or unproductive. Those who take mental health days are considered “sensitive” or “snowflakes” who haven’t yet matured into proper, self-damaging workers.

Turning to the religious realm, salvation is viewed in relation to what we do or accomplish. Sure, we are “saved by faith” in the Christian world, but properly living out the Gospel involves action. Mission trips, committees, Sunday School, repairs, Fall Festival, soup kitchens, prayer meetings, weekly worship, and private devotional life are all ways we “keep connected” to God and the Church… But what about Sabbath?

What about that pesky commandment that encourages us to find holiness in… nothing? What if we took one day per week to just “be?” Surely our bank accounts would hit zero, our kids would starve, and we’d lose our connection to our Savior… Or not.

In the Leviticus text, every festival that requires a holy convocation simultaneously functions as a Sabbath. “You shall do no work.” By my count, this command occurs at least 8 times in chapter 23. Clearly, this is an important part of Israel’s holy convocations, but why?

After praying over this question, it came to me that in Leviticus (and the Bible as a whole), holiness is not the product of human effort. Rather, it is the result of God’s presence, and the Sabbath reminds us of that. No amount of sacrifices, office hours, Bible studies, mission trips, volunteering, sleepless nights, or heart attacks will earn us the peace and holiness that come from God alone. We are mortal, finite creatures that need rest, play, and time spent in unproductive community for its own sake.

I don’t even like that some people try to justify rest as ultimately productive. “Well it is productive because you have the energy to achieve more later!” You’ve missed the point. Rest is good because it reminds us of our dependence. It is good because our bodies and spirits need it to survive and thrive. Sabbath rest is a necessary reminder that God gives us this world and this life that they may be enjoyed. We are reminded that holiness comes from a relationship with God that extends beyond all our external religious expressions.

I know that we all can’t always afford to set a whole day aside to nothing, but that is okay. How about an hour a day? What if we took a little time every day to just “be?” Take a nap, read a book, watch a garbage television show, play, or talk about nothing with your loved ones. All the while, keep in mind that this is God’s gift to you, reminding you to lean on Him and the holiness He grants to us as an act of grace. After all, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Peace be with you!

What Everybody Wants

And [God} said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” — Exodus 33:14, RSVCE

Rest is amazing. It is something we all desperately want and need, yet it is also one of the most elusive states of being in existence. Shoot, I just spent the last week not sleeping well at all due to my own struggles with depression/anxiety, as my routines had been disrupted and I had been admittedly lax in maintaining the practices that help keep things well-managed. Over the weekend, though, I picked up my consistent journal habit again, and I eliminated some “clutter” in my life (both emotional and physical) that had been adding to my stress as opposed to helping it. Add to that a weekend spent with family and friends (including the furry one killing me with snuggles, pictured above), and I found myself able to finally get some much-needed sleep after my 5:30 am training appointment today.

While all of these physical and emotional aides provided much benefit, it was the spiritual revelation of the weekend that really helped me to find my center again. While reading Exodus 33, I came across the passage wherein Moses earnestly requests that God’s presence be restored to the people after their idolatrous worship of a bovine idol in the previous chapter. This incident led to a questionable slaughter demanded by Moses, followed by a plague from God (a trend in Exodus), all of which resulting in God’s withdrawing from the people in order that they may not be consumed (33:3). After some time, however, Moses makes a request that I feel gets at the heart of our desperation for some true rest and peace.

In our quest for finding peace in life, we turn to a thousand different things. After all, if we only had that dream job, car, family, high, degree, president, spouse, house… THEN everything would be okay, right?

Ha. Sure.

What ends up happening is a meltdown, because turning to temporary things only produces temporary results. We invest so much time and energy into things that can be taken away in an instant. Our identities get bound up with what we do, who we know, where we live, and/or whatever we happen to accomplish in the eyes of humanity. All the while, true rest and peace continue to elude us because a good, spiritual return on investment cannot come from devotion to secular things.

So now that I have ruined that for everyone, I suppose you want to hear something positive.

… Fine.

While rest will always elude us if we place our hope in our own accomplishments, there is a way we can gain real peace in this life, here and now. No, I’m not selling some miracle drug or quick fix. I am, instead, issuing an invitation to the very relationship Moses manages to salvage in the passage for today. You see, Moses isn’t trying to use God to gain victory over foreign armies, nor is he begging God for more miracles by which to convince people of their need to change. He is simply asking that the relationship between God and Israel be restored because it is that relationship that makes the entire nation worth anything in the first place. As Moses says, “Is it not thy going with us, so that we are distinct” (33:16).

I am not promising that turning to God will get you everything you want, but I do guarantee you will get what you need, and that includes precious, precious rest. Your identity as a child of God, one who bears the Divine image (because you do, indicated in Genesis 1:26-27), can never be taken from you. It is irrevocable. In Christ, God is with us “always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and that presence brings with it immeasurable and insurmountable peace and joy.

Does this mean life will always be happy? No. If anything, challenges will multiply, as resting in God runs totally counter to our current culture. However, this is entirely worth it. Imagine a life wherein your worth is not determined by what you accomplish, what job you have, your family dynamics, your national identity, or any of the other temporarily satisfying criteria the world tries to force upon us. Imagine that your worth has been irrevocably established by Jesus Christ, who saw fit to die for you in a heartrending expression of Divine love. Imagine you now stand in the freedom to live a life full of the peace and rest that only God can give. Now imagine no longer, because it is true.

Self-care is absolutely necessary for us to live physically and emotionally healthy lives. To be spiritually healthy, however, our needs can only be met through relationship with the One who would die for us, and whose radical love imparts to us an identity that cannot be shaken down or taken away. It is my prayer that you will accept this invitation, and finally receive your share of the rest that God so yearns to give you.

Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting, or reach out to me with your own thoughts, topics, or ideas via the Contact page!

Thanks for stopping by, and peace be with you!