I have shared a little already about a season of underemployment I found myself in. What I didn’t share about was how that came to be. Towards the end of last year I was finishing a degree full-time, working two jobs, doing additional ministry, and because I’m entirely extraverted, trying to spend as much time with as many friends as I could. Cracks began to appear after I graduated and through divine providence went on a two-week holiday to Thailand instead of a mission trip to Thailand for a month. I came home from my holiday after lazing on beaches and drinking juices all day still completely restless and so exhausted. I hardly wanted to spend time with any people and I regularly rushed to hide in the bathroom after church on Sundays in order to avoid people and be alone for a while before pasting on my friendly, smiling face and wading into the masses. This behaviour finally came to a breaking point one evening in church after I realised the magnitude of another commitment I had taken on. I sobbed my eyes out very unprettily crying out to God to help me. I knew there was something wrong with me. I’d just had a wonderful holiday, just celebrated a great achievement, had wonderful friends and a great life and I was so exceptionally tired and overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do but I wanted things to change.
I went about chatting with one of my wonderful loving mentors and praying that God would speak to me and show me what to do. I did have an inkling God wanted to teach me a bit about rest but I’m a slow learner and I absolutely did not care to learn how to rest. I needed to get a job and over the next few months I set about applying for literally hundreds of jobs. I felt so sure that God was actually closing every door of opportunity for me seeing as I could not even get part-time work in retail which I had done for over 6 years. I began to get so angry at Him for doing this.
I found out pretty quickly that we in Western society really value usefulness. Lots of people were really good at encouraging me to find work and I grew more frustrated at my lack of purpose. I needed to get on with doing God’s work, because life is short and there isn’t much time you know! I read God’s word more intensely and thoroughly than I ever had before and I did continue to know his presence even as I began to understand that His plans were not my plans. I struggled to understand who I was to God if I couldn’t do anything for Him. What worth did I have? I continued to do a lot of painful soul searching.
I attended a Youth camp as a leader in a really rural setting with hardly any Wi-Fi at all. Being early to rise and late to bed each night there was hardly any time to use it anyway! What I did have the opportunity to do was to be immersed for a full week in hearing from God. I began to feel a filling up in my Spirit. And I heard God speak really clearly to me. He said everything we have been through these last months have not been me trying to take things away from you but to give you freedom and to show you about rest. Swallowing the embarrassment of finally beginning to get a grasp on something that God had continued to tell me and show me for six months I felt the weight and importance of this. God had spent such a long time trying to help me to understand rest, how crucial must it be for my life!
I’m still learning and exploring what rest is and how that plays out in my life. And I am continuing to look at rest as not a taking away but a filling up. A filling up of my emotional life spending time cultivating deep friendships, filling up spiritually just being in God’s presence and contemplating His love for me even though I have done nothing to deserve it and filling up physically leaving margin between my to do list and my actual capacity. A special verse God gave to me illustrates this journey. “They found grace in the desert, these people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them.” (Jer 31:2) Hallalujah!