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Rest

Or: Reflections from my End of Summer Vacation

I bid you to read I Kings 19, the story of an exhausted Elijah to whom God sent his angels to provide sustenance for a 40 day journey to Mt. Horeb (Sinai) whereupon Elijah finds a cave where he sleeps.  It is only after rest that Elijah can hear the Spirit of God’s voice, not in the sensationalism of an earthquake or fire, but in God’s still small voice. 

Rest.  Jesus teaches about rest and actually follows his own teaching by evening periods of solitude in the hills.  Instead of going to bed tired, Jesus goes to the mountains, rests and enters the stillness of God’s voice, thus allowing him to sleep restfully.  Do you ever have trouble sleeping?  When I do it’s because I go to sleep when my mind and body are far too “noisy.” 

Matthew 11: 28-29—“Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.” 

Soul rest.  Usually we think of just resting our bodies or minds.  Soul rest is a different kind of rest.  Hear an extrapolation by Neil Douglas-Klotz, Aramaic scholar:  “Come to me, all of you, all of yourselves [bring every part of you] in your frenzied weariness, your movement without end, your action without purpose….  Come enmeshed by what you carry, the cargo taken on by your soul, the burdens you thought you desired, which have constantly swollen and are now exhausting you….  I will give you peace and renewal after constant stress; your pendulum can pause between here and there, between being and not-being.” 

We are so accustomed to “doing” that rest can be difficult.  Rest is another kind of doing or undoing—it is a “letting go.”  It’s like being a dump truck that carries a load until it comes to the place where it can dump it.  Sometimes we have difficulty finding the place and way to let go. 

As Elijah went to Horeb and Jesus went to the Wilderness and hills, we too need to find places away from our usual places of movement (without the internet) and doing to “break the state” and allow God to “do his thing” with us. 

I am reminded of this every time I remember to “vacate” to a place where I can be renewed.   Since the summer camps were cancelled this summer, we decided to rent a cabin at Duncan Park.  There’s no cable or towers for phone/internet service there.  Didn’t miss that a bit.   As technology has offered us some helpful ways to make our life easier, there is often a cost to it in that our souls are covered over by what the Psalmist discovers in Psalm 12: that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone. 

After Duncan Park, we went to Kathy’s childhood home and revisited the Colorado National Monument south of Grand Junction.  We traversed the high desert multicolored rock formations until we found the right spot, took our shoes off, and sat upon a rock—for hours.  Even Shiloh was absorbed by the stillness and the energy we felt come into us from the rock finding rest.  The words of Jesus, reverberated in my head—“Come to me and you will find rest for your souls.”  When we are in a place where we can be still enough for long enough, for the mind to empty and the body to relax, we can feel the presence of God moving in and about, swirling through our bodies and finally reaching the depths of our souls where there are no words. Only the Word, which needs not make a sound—only needing to move within us as we are the temple of God.  Soul rest brings us into a state of effortless equilibrium. 

The necessity for soul rest is akin to having lights in the various rooms of our homes.  How silly it would be to pull the plugs out of the receptacles in our homes where no light could be received.  Since we cannot go to the mountains or coast every day, we need to find ways to create restful soul spaces.   Some create a part of their yards, some walk in the countryside or go to a park.  Some make a run to the coast or find a corner of Enchanted Rock.  I knew a woman years ago in Victoria who literally set up a small altar space in her bathroom because it was the only place in her home where she could get the solitude she needed.   At its deepest, solitude is prayer, the commingling of God’s Spirit and our own.

This soul-rest requires intentionality.  The world will not allow you to be quiet because the world cannot tolerate the Silence of God.  The world needs to make noise to distract us so that they can continue to pretend to “be in charge” of everything—themselves and even others.  No wonder the world is “out of tune.” 

Find some places where you can find rest of your souls—not just your bodies.  If you have trouble, call me and we’ll find a place for you together.

Rest.  Allow the Great Lover to find a space in your heart where He can begin to release that which is not of you, so that you may be renewed and become one with the One Being. 

The soul is the place of true rest.

Fr. Mark