“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
Have you ever learned how to be quiet? Are you even aware of your need to be quiet and to rest?
This lesson has been a very difficult one for me. I am certainly not “there” – but it has been an ongoing journey for me for the last several years. It is a lesson well worth the learning. In fact, there will only be two posts this week, because of how difficult it is to just write and put this journey into quietness and rest into words.
I have struggled with this concept for several years now. It all started with a relatively “normal” day in the life of Lauree Fletcher in September of 2004. I was preparing to continue my studies at my new institution of higher learning (that would be Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Western Washington University) and winding down my commitments at Whatcom Community College with a very daunting project of creating a calendar dedicated to women who have followed and excelled in non-traditional occupations for the Turning Point program. Turning Point was one of the primary catalysts for getting me back to school to “follow my dreams” – but I’ll have to share about that one at a later time.
It was during one of those jaunts back and forth between the two when a driver, trying to blindly cross through several lanes of traffic to make a left turn onto the busiest thoroughfare in Bellingham, hit me. It didn’t seem to be such a big deal. It wasn’t at high speed or anything. I knew I was sore, but come on, a massage or two, a little stretching, and I should be back good as new, right? Wrong. Five years later, I still struggle with the pain and the domino effect that that one traffic accident has had on my life.
I have to tell you, I have the most wonderful massage therapist that ever walked the face of the earth. She has kept my body going, even during the worst of times. And that is saying a lot. And she has taught me so many good things. And the Lord has taught us both some pretty amazing insights through the process.
Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6 (NLT)
One of those insights has to do with my struggle with hyper-vigilance. I had been seeing Kasandra for some time and we just weren’t seeing much improvement in my condition. She would work and work on a specific area that was giving me trouble and make some headway, but almost as quickly, it would be right back to where it was. She encouraged me to become more aware of what was going on in my body and pay attention to the points of pain and the triggers. Now for those of you who don’t know me so well, this was like asking me to do the impossible. There is just about nothing in me that is naturally introspective. I am so other oriented it’s ridiculous. I knew I had a difficult task put before me.
Now mind you, remember where I was? On the massage table. Getting a massage. Supposed to be the height of relaxation and quietness, right? Not! At least not for me, though it’s probably true for “normal” people. I began to notice that as Kasandra was working in a particular area of my back or neck, all the rest of my body was running to the rescue. I suppose I’ve run on adrenaline for so long in my life, it’s the only response my system knows. In case you’re not sure here, that is not a good thing!
Here I am, supposed to be relaxed and allowing the massage to help my body heal, and all my body can do is tense up everywhere else and try to help out the poor area that is being tenderized and prepared… for what? I don’t know, maybe I was next on the menu or something. It seemed my muscles completely had minds of their own and they weren’t cooperating with the overall plan for getting better.
This was work! I had (and unfortunately still have to) concentrate and focus on relaxing, on letting go of my tension and the vigilance to protect and guard! What’s up with that? Isn’t that like an oxymoron or something. I have to work and put forth a great deal of effort to relax?! There’s something seriously wrong with that picture!
You will be smashed like a piece of pottery—
shattered so completely that
there won’t be a piece big enough
to carry coals from a fireplace
or a little water from the well.”
This is what the Sovereign Lord,
the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.
But you would have none of it.
You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt.
They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’
But the only swiftness you are going to see
is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you! Isaiah 30:14-16 (NLT)
I feel sure that at least part of the culprit comes from raising my six kids on my own for so many years. There is something about not having a flesh and blood partner to turn to and to share with and lean on when uncertainty rises and life gets tough. Unfortunately for all of us, I did not enter single parenthood with a clear picture of what Yahweh meant when He said He will be husband to the husbandless and father to the fatherless. It was a steep learning curve when I suddenly found myself 3000 miles away from all family and alone with six kids between the ages of 2 and 12. But the point is, it was never God’s intent that I do it alone.
I had to learn to know that His Presence with me is as real as any human’s – no that’s not right – His Presence is even more real and palpable. I had to learn that He alone truly is our Provider. I had to learn that He is also our Protector, the One Who insures our ultimate safety and well-being. I had to learn that I did not need to run anywhere but Him for my help and salvation in the rough circumstances of life.
I needed to run to HIM! It definitely took some breaking of old thought patterns and habits and the “wisdom” of the world and the good intentions of man. But I learned that the breaking was for my good, for the good of my children, and for the good of the many He would eventually bring into my life to be touched by His Presence through all that He has brought me through.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. Mark 6:31-32 (NLT)
It took time and setbacks and getting back up again and unlearning and learning anew for me to begin to truly understand the need to be quiet before Him and to choose to rest in Him. But I did begin to learn this truth in a whole new way ~ in the spiritual and emotional realms of my life. I learned to hear His voice, to get away with Him and place my agenda before Him. I learned to better measure my time and, somewhat, my energy. I learned that life is so much fuller and peaceful when it is surrendered to His plans and purposes for us. After all, He IS the Creator of all things. He IS the Almighty. He IS still in control, even when it looks dark and bleak and hopeless. Faith claims His promises even in the face of doubt and uncertainty and fear.
Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—
now and always.
Psalm 131:1-3 (NLT)
And I found Him to be everything He promises to be. I found Him to be absolutely faithful and true. I found Him to be worthy of my faith and worthy of my worship and worthy of loving from the greatest depths of my being! I am still learning to be quiet before Him in EVERY area of my life and to allow His rest to wash over me and renew me and transform my mind and breathe life into my body. My hope is in Yahweh, because I know Him to be true. My salvation is in His Son, Jesus, the true lover of my soul.
Before my Father Yahweh brought me into this journey of learning to rest in Him, I had found it much easier to relate to Jesus than to relate to Him. After all, Jesus at least had come in bodily form. There is much recorded about His earthly life, so relating to the Man of God, was not so terribly difficult. But Yahweh is not a man. He has no bodily form. How could I rest in someone I had no way to picture.
And yet, He gives us so many examples of how He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. He is the cleft in the rock, our hiding place. He gathers us under the shelter of His wings, the gentle protection from the storms and predators of life. He beckons to us from every part of His creation, He is EVERYTHING we could possibly need and then some!
He is MORE THAN WORTHY!
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands. 1 Peter 3:3-5 (NLT)
I have moved on to a new part of my journey, and that includes a new husband, new family, a relatively new ministry, new friendships, and fortunately, new mercies every morning.
I am still learning, through the physical pain and through the stubbornness of a hyper-vigilant body system, the need to rest and the need to be quiet before Him. I, the one who has always been the one who can “handle it all”, still need to remember that handling it by myself is not His intent. I need to release every stress and every fear and every uncertainty into His care, knowing that my victory comes from Him, not from my ability to “just handle it” and move on.
And I am also learning to trust Yahweh through trusting my husband, to show my love for Him by how I show my love for my husband, and to show my respect for His authority by showing respect to my husband’s authority in my life. I am having to learn to remember to ask Ken to pray for me, to pray with my when the pain grows great, to trust Ken to lead us faithfully to the throne room of Heaven and to claim His promises, and to listen to him when he says I am taking on too much and not taking care of the temple of the Holy Spirit.
It’s not that I am less than, not that I can’t enter God’s Presence on my own, it’s that Yahweh values obedience over sacrifice. Our obedience is the highest indicator of our love for Him ~ including our respect for those in authority over us and our choice to rest and wait quietly for HIM!
I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2 (NLT)
I certainly haven’t “arrived” but I hope progress in my learning is evident to those around me. Feel free to ask my husband how I’m doing in that regard and then to help me see my blind spots. And I’ll do the same for you if you ask. We need each other! That’s why Yahweh created us to be in community!