Vol 1, Num 8 :: 2002.12.20 — 2003.01.02
Our sermon last week was on the nature of celebrations as God commanded them to be in the Old Testament. What struck me as being the most relevant point on the last day my husband and I would be in attendance as residents of the area was God's allowance for rest at certain designated times.
The week leading up to this particular Sunday had been hellish. Suffering from severe colds, we were made even more weary by our move, which necessitated long days, taxing physical labor and restless sleep. All week, we tried to heal while simultaneously trying to wrap up loose ends and designate stuff to be stored or taken with us. I didn't understand until Sunday night when we arrived in our new temporary home what true rest awaited us.
I now sit typing in front of a large picture window framing an iced-over lake, where just hours ago, we watched two beavers repeatedly dive in and out of the ice and eat the fish they successfully caught. Monday morning, we slept in and then explored town for a good part of the day. We found an excellent independent bookstore with a used first edition of a book we'd been seeking to purchase for years. We found a little cafe where the two of us could get burgers, chips and soup for a total of $6. Tuesday, we visited an Episcopalian abbey and a Mennonite retreat community. Both nights we had fires in the fireplace and ate ice cream and drank hot chocolate with marshmallows. This has been a much-needed time of rest, but I've had a difficult time accepting it willingly.
There has been the issue to put out. There's another writing project I'm working on. There are thank you notes to be written. There are myriad things to do to get *cino where we think it should be.
At the same time, there is a mist floating across the lake that is vying for my attention. There are tiny drops of water hanging on the tips of the birch branches and reflecting the gray white light and asking for just a moment of my time. On clear, cold nights, there is a blue light filling the snowy fields so peacefully in the crisp cold that I feel it would be a sin not to stop and appreciate God's artwork.
Out here at the lake, I do not feel the pressure of the holiday rush like I did in the suburbs, but I still feel the pressure of my own agenda. The memory of Sunday's sermon, however, reminds me that periods of rest are God's freely given gift and that learning to enjoy what He has commanded only prepares us for an eternity in perfect community with God, each other and ourselves. But there's a lesson in this for me that speaks to more than rest. I have to realize that, in the Christmas season especially, God is asking me to simply be accepting.
It must be as though I'm a three-year-old whose mother, signaled by my yawns, has said it's time for a nap. In obedience, I let her lead me by the hand to the place where she has already turned back the covers and I sleep. In accepting the gift of God's child, we must become like children to fully appreciate the mystery.
This is the time when God does the work, God does the giving. For us, this time is one of acceptance—accepting rest, accepting the miracle of Christ's birth, accepting God's grace, accepting that we can do nothing on our own, whether it's Sabbath or salvation. Our response to God's gifts is simply attentiveness and acceptance—this response is our act of celebration and worship.
It's drizzling right now, but I think when it stops, I'll put my boots on and take a walk in the woods. There are fat brown squirrels leaping all over the yard, awakened by the temporary warmth. Maybe I can hope to see some deer. But mostly, I just want to honor this gift of rest by taking some time to play in the mud and be healed. We all must do the work that has been prepared for us to do, but we also must accept the rest that is required of us—so go out and play!