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  • Shanley McConnell

Devotion: Rest for the Soul

Updated: Sep 19

This is what the Lord says:


Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.

~


St Augustine --- theologian, philosopher, and Bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa --- described humans as restless. His prayer to God began and continued with these words. "Our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee."


Restlessness reveals itself in a number of ways: discontentment, forgetfulness, hopelessness, panic and pain. Restlessness, glimpsed in the small moment between one distraction and the next, searches for diversion. It moves quickly, and uncertainly, through silence. Restlessness does not know how to grieve. It is the crook in a new beginning.


Restlessness emerges in life's odd intervals. Restlessness finds weight in our patterns. We wander between bedroom doors, winding down the night. We eat, or we refuse to eat. We religiously watch people we do not know. We soothe our minds with wasted time. We forget that the beautiful fairytale ----- a happily ever after built by God for eternal worship and repose ---- requires practice in compromise and sacrifice. We must let many things go to make room in our rhythms for companionship ---- conversation ---- with the Prince of Peace.


St Augustine understood the connection between purpose and peace. The quiet harmony of walking with Christ. The solace and quiet nature of rest allows us to reflect on what (who) is truly important in life. Moves and declutters our lives with nuance and grace. It welcomes and makes good the ministry of work.


In Matthew 11: 28, Jesus says


Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened.
I will give you rest.

For thirty years (three in ministry), God's son walked with his chosen people. He could have completed the Gospel ---- died, defeated Death and resurrected ---- within minutes, but instead, the Almighty chose to dedicate himself to a season of ministry on Earth. He walked among his disciples to demonstrate the Way to rest (John 14:6). He interspersed and built his work around moments of quiet with God, 'for he frequently withdrew in the wildnerness to pray' (Luke 5:16). The intentionality of this withdrawal demonstrates the importance of consecrating time to worship. In the presence of God, Rest is restorative.


We often correlate restlessness with sleeplessness, but the direct opposite of restlessness is not sleep. The opposite of restlessness is rest. Our work on earth is meant to be holy, and bring us closer in relationship with the Father. 'Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,' says the Lord, 'for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls' (Matt 11: 29). Learning to bear the cross is a vital step in blessed rest.


In Romans 13: 11, the disciple Paul writes:


The time has come for you to wake from sleep. Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.

In Isaiah 52: 1, the prophet calls to the kingdom:


Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion;
Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city;
The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.
Shake away your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.

Ephesians 5:14


Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead. Christ will shine on you.


The peace of God comes with walking in his way, walking with the plough. I pray that we continue to wake and walk with compassion and grace, counting it pure joy whenever we are called to face trials of any kind (Luke 21: 36; James 1:2). The invitation to bear with the Gospel and contribute to the kingdom work of God nourishes both the body and soul, and leads to eternal rest. Ponder the words of English writer and poet D. H. Lawrence. He, too, understand that peace comes only when one lays aside the sword for the plough.



At the open door of the room I stand and look at the night,

Hold my hand to catch the raindrops, that slant into sight,

Arriving grey from the darkness above suddently into the light of the room.


[...]


I will go out to the night, as a man goes down to the shore

To draw his net through the surf's thin line, at the dawn before

The sun warms the sea, little, lonely and sad, sifting the sobbing tide.


I will sift the surf that edges the night, with my net, the four

Strands of my eyes and my lips and my hands and my feet, sifting the store

Of flotsam until my soul is tired or satisfied.

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