Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When rest is exhausting

Heather and I just spent a wonderful week serving with our fellowship at a Young Life camp down in North Carolina, and it was so awesome how God moved throughout the week.  We were in the Word, we served hard, we had great community, and we had loads of fun.  But I remember by the end of the week, I longed for rest.  Though I often appear to be an extravert, I don't actually get energy from being with people.  I gain energy by being alone.  I longed to spend time on my own with Jesus, because as much as I love being with people, I recharge through being on my own.

When I woke up on Sunday, it was 11 AM... which was depressing for me because as much as I love to sleep, I don't like to miss so much of the day.  By the time I started my day, it was well after noon, and college basketball was on, so I tuned in.

Heather had suggested 3 or 4 times that we watch a sermon together, each time with me saying, "let's just wait... I'm tired.  I need to rest."

It took until 7 or 8 for me to finally decide when I was "ready," but to be honest I just felt more exhausted.  My back was hurting more than normal, my eyes felt like they had weights on them, and I had tried everything to gain my strength back apart from spending time with Jesus.

As I watched the sermon, one question the preacher posed stood out to me:  "What are the things that stir your affections for Jesus?"  Then, the preacher said to do whatever it takes to stir affection for Him.

As I sat on the couch, I realized that while I "rested," I wasn't really at rest.  I wasn't giving my heart to Jesus.  And most of the time, my "rest" has nothing to do with Jesus, but actually I try to take a break from Jesus.  It's like trying to breathe without oxygen... it doesn't work, and only leaves you gasping for air that's not actually there.

Now, I'm not saying that rest has to be sermons, or bible studies, worship music, etc.  24/7, and then you'll rest.  But, Hebrews does say to strive to enter rest, and that the ultimate culmination of that rest is spending all of eternity with Jesus!  That means we aren't going to ever live apart from Jesus in heaven.  So... what stirs your affections for Jesus?  What helps you strive for true rest in the person of Jesus Christ?

Here is what I know is NOT restful:

Daydreaming/Fantasizing: It's private self-glorification, and that's sin.
Gluttony:  Far too often I think eating lots of food will help me rest.  Typically all that it does is add a few pounds, make me feel guilty, and have a long night in the bathroom...  It's also idolatry of food, and it's sin.
Watching Sports ALL-DAY/following them in the morning:  I love sports, especially basketball and football.  Watching March Madness for 96 hours straight for the first weekend feels very appealing, especially after a long week of work.  It's not.   It's also probably idolatry of some form (laziness, entertainment, etc.).
Anything sinful:  This should be a giant DUH, but sin promises us rest and life, and all it does is produce unrest and death.

For me, here is what I know IS restful (Note: this what I know to help stir my affections for Jesus... these aren't rules for you in how to jump start your affections):

Doing work at Starbucks:  I don't know what it is... but there is something about the environment of Starbucks or another coffee shop that just ministers to my soul.  
Getting into a routine:  For some reason, I often fall into the trap that if I sleep as late as I can, I will be more rested.  This is a lie for me... if I can get into a routine and stick to it, it helps me love Jesus more, because I feel less pressured with my time, and my mind often wanders less.
Journaling/Blogging/Writing:  I've found that my sweetest time of prayer is often when I journal, my most profound thoughts about the Lord come when I'm blogging, and that my affections are just stirred when I write fan fiction (mainly because I'm thinking about how the gospel can be shared through pop culture and different characters).  I never thought it would be through writing that I would feel rested, but it's very helpful, and it stirs my affections for the Lover of my Soul.   (Side Note: when I look obsessively at the numbers for how many hits the blog or my fan fiction gets, it stops becoming restful and becomes enslaving and taxing...)
Going for a run:  Another shocker... I never thought I would love running.  But I enjoy running and listening to worship music as I do it.
Serving my wife:  For the record... I hate doing dishes.  I'd prefer my own movie choices.  I often wish I could do what I want.  But when I serve my wife and give up my preferences, I often (not always) feel much more rested, and my heart is stirred more towards Jesus.  

So... what stirs your affections for Jesus?  What will lead you to rest in the presence of the Lover of your Soul?

In His Grace,