The Rest of Grace

Stumbling to the coffee pot yet again, I peel my eyes open.  It’s 9 am and the older two kids are off to school already.  I’m not entirely sure how that happened.  “How does my three-year old wake every hour on the hour all night long and STILL have gumption to play – I mean, seriously!?”  {Can I just shout out a ‘Praise the Lord’ for Cartoons that entertain all day every day!}  As I lean into a hot mug of caffeine, insisting it has what I need to make it through another day of mothering, house-keeping, friend-ing, and Christian-walking, I am overwhelmed.  Staring me down are expectations, needs, demands, goals, plans, chores… ones from yesterday compiled with those today.

The comparisons start shouting and I’m not even half way through the first cup.

“Half the day is gone!  Why didn’t you just stay up and get caught up?!”

“You did this for months with a newborn and your house never looked like this, what is your problem?!”

“Other mom’s never shout at their kids the way you just did, what a lame excuse!”

“You should be ashamed for how much you whine about this!”

“You should be grateful for the added cuddles you get with him every night, this is fleeting time.”

“You are lazy! So what if you didn’t sleep, you are the grown up, shape up!”

Oh, Mickey Mouse, please distract them from the storm raging in this momma’s soul.  And bring me more coffee!  I want to shout back at those disgusting accusers:  “I’m not grateful, it was cute the first three nights but not fourteen nights later.”  “I am whining and I did lose my temper”… I’m immobilized by fatigue and dreading even the simplest of tasks.  I am lost in this struggle, desperate for air and blinded by sleepy eyes.  I’m sinking.

Storm coming in Panama City Beach, FL

On the fourteenth coffee-induced morning, as this now daily argument with comparison starts swallowing me, I began to wonder – maybe there was more to this whole situation than just lack of sleep; is more to this rest thing than just hours of pillows and drawn curtains?  What if it wasn’t so much about this temporary problem but more about the attitude I held in my heart?   What if I found a way to live with peace in the midst of the raging waves?

So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God.  For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.  So let us do our best to enter that rest.  But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. For the word of God is alive and powerful.  It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.  Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.  …This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.   ~Heb. 4: 10-13, 15-16 (NLT)

Wait a minute.  Are we talking sleep, or swords or grace?

All of the above.

Matthew Henry writes in his Concise Commentary: “It is evident, that there is a more spiritual and excellent Sabbath remaining for the people of God, than that of the seventh day, or that into which Joshua led the Jews.  This rest is, a rest of grace, and comfort, and holiness, in the gospel.”

A rest of grace.

Grace:  the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

A rest of grace.

As I look back over my recent weeks of struggle against rest I see my fight against vulnerability.  There are scars of perfection and left over expectations.  I wrestled control.  I labored and strived for pride.  My perfect plans and color coordinated calendar were disrupted, dismantled and undone.  I fell from rest with a push of doubt and unbelief.  Like the Israelites, I placed my value in my activity, in the visible expressions of my perfect control.  The perfection of being on time, everything put together and finished to the shine, well-mannered and need-free.  I doubted God wanted me any less perfect than that.  I didn’t believe grace could come to the midst of my need.  In Psalms 95:7-11 God says the Israelites would not “enter rest” because they didn’t remember His provision, they hardened their hearts and that hardening hindered the move of grace.

The literal sense of rest is sleep.  It is a very vulnerable state to be in, all of your defenses are down and you are completely unaware of your surroundings.  I imagine Peter felt dreamy stepping out of the boat onto uncertain waters.

“Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.  When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified.  In their fear, they cried out, ‘it’s a ghost!’

But Jesus spoke to them at once.  ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage. I am here!’

Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’

‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said.  So peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.  ‘Save me Lord!’ he shouted.” (Matt. 14:24-30 NLT)

Peter stood up in a rocking boat and stepped off the side.  He put his foot down firmly on the water and then took another step.  And another.  His head up and eyes forward, his only focus was the face of Jesus.

Did you catch that though?  Peter was out of the boat in the midst of the storm.  Just look there a minute:  waves crashing at the boat behind him and still nipping at his heals.  The wind howling, whipping his tunic and I bet his friends were either screaming in terror or eerily silent in shock.  Yet he’s walking forward with an attitude of rest.  The storm outside was not reflected inside his eyes.

Then he stopped believing and started noticing his vulnerabilities.  He looked elsewhere.  He. is. standing. in. the. middle. of. the. sea.   No  oars.  No life vest.  Not even a rope.  And it’s scary-stormy.  Life is a mess all around him, plans are disrupted, life disheveled and he is coming undone.  How does Jesus respond?  “Peter, what a mess you’ve caused!” or “Waves, you are so evil!” No.

“Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.  ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said.  ‘Why did you doubt me?’  (Matt. 14:31 NLT)

Why did you doubt?

His promise of rest, rest of grace still stands.  It was promised to the Israelites in the desert.  It was promised to Kings in battle.  It was promised on the hillside in Judea and it is still a promise for today, my day.  His word is alive and strong – exposing my most vulnerable thoughts, needs, and desires and I lean in.  He has been there, to the depths of my humanity and back.  Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus faced all the same storms we do, but he didn’t doubt.   My doubting his grace in the midst of this mess will only steal my rest.  The storm can rage on but I will not sink.  I choose to lean in.  Rest may not come in the silence of the waves but instead it comes in my ability to lean in and boldly cling to grace.

So Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.  (Heb. 4:16 NLT)

Absolved And Free

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3 Comments on “The Rest of Grace

  1. Brandi, Stop striving and trying to be a perfectionist. There is a time and a season for everything. I like my season. Love, G.G. Your kids are wonderful and such a huge blessing!!

    Like

  2. Girlfriend, we have been studying the tiny book of Hebrews in our weekly bible study at church, and you just clarified it to me in a profound way that the whole group never managed to. And thank God you did, because this is so ridiculously timely in my life. Keep writing, Brandi, you’re onto something.

    Like

    • Natasha!
      Thank you for sharing! Truthfully I teared up often while writing it – it is a very real lesson for me in this season. God is faithful to reveal His word- and I am humbled to be a part of that for you!
      Blessings to you and your Bible Study group!!

      Like

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