There is so much I want to tell you about Q. I don’t have the words, yet, other than to tell you it was beautiful. Beyond my wildest imagination.
Mine was the last talk of the day, and I thought I’d share it with you here. (There’s a little miracle in the details of how these words actually came together, and I’ll share that in a different post.) I was asked to talk about the role of rest, and it was my hope I’d speak my way into a blessing of rest over us all:
I don’t get asked to talk about rest, and I’m not sure many of us think about rest. In my day-to-day, I talk a lot about race in the Body of Christ and it’s a conversation that makes me feel that, if we take a breath, it will all fall apart and, after a day like this where we’ve all been inspired and encouraged to consider and embrace the beautiful, messy, unique ways God has wired us, and the fabulously awesome, and grand callings he has given to each of his daughters and sons, I have visions of that scene in the movie “Fame” where the students burst through the doors and into the streets of New York, where they danced on the sidewalks and the taxi cabs and manhole covers, and I look at you, in the atrium and here in this room and I believe you feel a fire your soul that makes you want to dance and live out loud into this glorious life as your part in the Body of Christ. And I say yes! Let’s dance! Let’s be like David in the glorious call unfolding in our hearts, or the newly planted seed, or a fire raging in your soul. Yes, let’s dance! I want to tell you.
And, I suspect Rebekah and the Q crew knew we might all feel this way at exactly this point in the day, and so, they invited me to talk to us all, about the role of rest, right in the midst of our calling.
Because also? At the end of these kinds of days, where we have made all sorts of preparation, and we have left behind our people, our pets, and our plants, and we have or have not slept the night before, wondering instead whether or not we deserve to sit here in this space, and then we have discovered and, yes, been surprised to realize God loves us just like this and he has chosen this day to surround us with sisters who “get” us and who wear really cute shoes and who look into our souls after just ten minutes of conversation…at the end of days such as these, we might possibly find ourselves at the end of ourselves, with our bodies tired, our brains weary, our ability to speak in complete sentences saturated and, at the same time, bone dry. At this point in the day, for many of us, we just want to be home.
And I want to say to us, home is good.
Way back in the ’90s, I had what I contend might still be my favorite job of all time. I, was an aerobics instructor. This was in the days of step aerobics, and choreography was king. I loved this job, probably because it played into my dream to be on Broadway, which, if we’re being literal, I am right now. In my aerobics classes, we’d do all sorts of crazy choreography and then, before the reward of stretching, and relaxing and ending the hard work of the day, we all walked around with our fingers on our pulses and we counted each beat for 15 seconds because we wanted to be sure our heart rate, which had been elevated during all of that challenging choreography that we either conquered or tripped over or celebrated together, after all of that, we needed our heart to return to rest.
The more quickly our hearts returned to rest, the more efficient, the healthier, the more whole were our hearts, and the less time it took to recover from all that work.
Rest, for our hearts, is home. And the same is true for our souls, as we navigate the world of calling as women in all of the places God sets us — in the classroom, the board room, the pulpit, the carpool lane, the 3 AM feedings, the basketball court, the 100K word novel, the dinner table, the garden, the non-profit organization, the place God has called us — in all of these places, rest is home for the soul.
And we all know in the world, rest is not king.
I write on a blog, and in the world of blogging, some people embark on a challenge for 31 days in October, where we write, each day, on one topic, for the entire 31 days. The challenge does many things. It helps a writer hone her skills by writing every day. It focuses a writer by writing on the same topic, 31 days in a row. Some of the bloggers have gone on to publish books, based entirely on what they wrote during those 31 days in October. It is a writer’s dream, and nightmare — all at the same time.
If we’re honest, bloggers will admit there is bit of platform-building in these 31 days. Having your words out in front of so many people for so many days often results in more readers, more subscribers, more FB likes, more re-Tweets, more pins on Pinterest, more Klout. The 31 Day Challenge, when executed well, can be like gold for a blogger.
There is conventional wisdom in the world of blogging. It says you should write like this, but don’t write like that, and never write about things like this, that, or the other. You should write this many times each week at this time of day and you should comment and share and Tweet and Instagram with wild abandon; but not too much.
It can be like a treadmill with no “off” switch, and we don’t even realize our heartbeat is over the top, and it has not idea how to find the road back to rest.
I took the 31 Day Challenge two years in a row, but this year, I wasn’t getting the go-ahead from God. And one day, after my little group of bible study friends walked down my driveway, I traced my finger over the keys of my computer, in search of the “off” button, and I clearly felt God telling me my challenge this year would be 31 days off. No blogging. Not one word. For 31 days.
For a moment, I thought I should panic. No blogging for 31 days? While everyone else was building her platform, I should just go quietly into the night…?
31 days off in the world of blogging is practically unheard of…what if no one missed me? What if I became invisible? What if my blog died?
Aren’t these the questions we ask ourselves when contemplating whether or not to give in to a season, or a week, or a day, or fifteen minutes of rest?
“But this is my calling!” I wanted to say…
And there, as I turned my laptop off, I knew 31 Days Off was right. Risky, but right.
And it was…
I didn’t spend my days thinking up something to write. I lived life, and there was inspiration everywhere and, every now and then, I’d wonder if anyone would notice that I was gone, but those thoughts came less and less. The heartbeat of my soul was slowing down, finding its way home, and, one day, in the evening, when I had hours of freedom ahead of me, I said to my husband, “Taking 31 days off from blogging is one of the best things God ever told me to do!” Less that one minute later, I noticed a message in my inbox:
“Hello friend,” the message began, and then, “I am fascinated by your 31 Days OFF, and I wonder if you’d be interested in talking to women at Q about REST…”
“This is what mothering taught me about God: we relax into this relationship. He caught me with a taste of unconditional love, and then he taught me how to relax into that loving. He gently mentored me in eschewing performance and impossible obligations and outsider standards of success in favor of freedom and creativity. Living loved, we relax our expectations, our efforts, our strivings, our rules, our spine, our breath, our plans, our job descriptions and checklists; we step off the treadmill of the world and the treadmill of religious performance. We are not the authors of our redemption. No, God is at work, and his love for us is boundless and deep, wide and high, beyond all comprehension. He remains faithful.” (pg. 114)
As I read the invitation to be here with you today, standing right here where I am, I felt a gentle hand on my heart and the slow and richly beautiful beat of a soul at home. I understood something I share with all of us…
…this calling you have is God’s call FOR you.
God is for you. Rest there. Be whole there. Be at home.
God is for you.
At the very end of my talk, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I’d ended earlier than my allotted 18 minutes, and I could have ad libbed. But it was a moment, and I chose to let it be. I said, “Thank you,” and then exited the stage. If I had it all to do over again, I’d say, “Amen,” instead.