We Celebrate the Light

Twenty hours after arriving in Iceland, I was starting to feel enclosed by the darkness and anxious for dawn to finally arrive. I had seen the sunset from the airplane mid-afternoon, but by 10:30am the next day, the night felt far too long. Even when the sun came up, it was a dim light, hushed by the cloudy sky.

That night my friend Johanna and I joined a French couple that we had just met and together we drove out to a lighthouse, sat in the car and looked into the dark, hoping to spot some Northern Lights. We were again surrounded by darkness and not even sure for what we were looking. Would they appear like a shooting star, there and then gone again in the blink of an eye? Would they come in slowly or as a flash of lightning? All we knew was that we were looking for some impressive light display, in whatever form it might appear. We were not successful, so eventually we gave up and drove home.

The next morning, Dec. 26, I again found myself staring into the darkness, even though I had been up for hours. I was on a bus to the Southshore of Iceland and was listening to many interesting stories and anecdotes from our tour guide. Then we passed a small church and cemetery. Each tombstone was lit up with Christmas lights, usually outlining a cross. The tour guide explained that in December, the darkest month of the year, it is a tradition to light up the cemeteries like this. She went on, “Perhaps it appears that we go a bit crazy with the Christmas lights here, but in the midst of so much darkness, at Christmastime, we celebrate the light.”

We celebrate the light. Those words stuck with me for the rest of the journey. My thoughts immediately went back to Paris, which has been stained by dark acts of violence and death in 2015. I will never forget in the days following the attacks, the scenes of hundreds of candles scattered throughout the city of lights helping to illuminate those dark places.

And then I thought again of Christmas, which Icelanders celebrate for two full weeks until Epiphany on January 6. And how Jesus, the person traditionally at the center of this celebration, claimed to be “the light of the world.” Celebrating Christmas is to celebrate this light, even though the destiny for baby Jesus would include a night of such profound darkness that even his closest disciples would flee the scene. The light that followed at his resurrection is a light eternal, a light that Christians celebrate every day of the year.

Yet it is interesting that it takes darkness to recognize the light. Or rather that darkness is the absence of light and that light casts out all darkness. So it makes sense that the darker the darkness, the brighter the light shines, the more it is appreciated, and the more we are even at times desperate for it. In so many ways, 2015 was for me a year of darkness and light, so spending the last few days in Iceland during their celebration of light was ever so fitting.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Today is Uncomfortable

I’m a bit shaken right now. In the middle of a rehearsal with a colleague early this afternoon, I saw that my dad was calling. Usually I don’t answer my phone while rehearsing, but I felt like I needed to check in so I picked up and said, “Hi Dad, I’m in a rehearsal, but is everything ok?”

At the same time, my colleague looked at her phone and saw that her mother had called. And so we learned of the shooting that had just taken place in my very neighborhood here in Paris. Time started to slip away as we read news reports in shock. When I saw the pictures, I couldn’t believe it. This is my neighborhood of Paris, my hood. The street I so often run, bike, walk…

When we finally tried to resume rehearsing, we struggled to concentrate. Instead we spent most of our rehearsal time talking about fear, peace, life and death.

Last night I was biking home from my German class, in a bike lane, and a car nearly hit me. I yelled and they stopped just inches from where I passed. It was the closest call I’ve ever had on a bike.

On Christmas Eve, I was in Amsterdam and went with friends to a 10pm service. I didn’t understand much, but the music was beautiful and the evening peaceful. And at least I understood what we were celebrating. On the way back, I thought I saw blood on the street as we were arriving home. Later someone told us that two men had been stabbed on our street while we were at church.

I’m saddened for these lives that were lost and especially burdened for Paris today. Everyone here has been affected. Whether it was interrupted rehearsals, school lock-downs, canceled activities, gatherings of solidarity or deserted streets, we all felt it and saw the effects today in some way.

These recent situations, which have come too close for comfort, remind me of the fragility of life. In an instant everything we hold to in life could be gone. I shared with a friend today how I almost lost my life in 2007. Usually conversations about death take me back to that experience.

It’s easy to get comfortable and to not think so much about important issues of life and death. Sometimes it takes uncomfortable experiences to turn our focus from the temporal to the eternal. Indeed, it was during those days of feeling so close to eternity back in 2007 that I had such a clear focus on what is truly important in life and what is trivial. And the deep assurance that nothing can rob me of what I treasure the most:

“For I am persuaded that not even death or life,
angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Rom. 8:38-39)

Today is uncomfortable, but it draws my heart to what is really important. So again I claim these words. And I cling to Jesus.

Marathon 2014 – My celebration of life (part 2)

I have a mental strategy for every long distance race I run, telling myself easy for the first quarter, steady for the middle half, and burn for the final quarter. So I was very focused on my pacing myself during the first 10k. I knew that the only way to make it through this race in my physical condition was to go much slower than I wanted to. In the beginning, everyone was passing me up and as a male-dominated race, this meant I almost got knocked over a couple of times (I later heard that one woman did get knocked to the ground at the start). But I refused to let the speed of others influence me. The sun was already bright but most of the time there was a gentle breeze. By the 5k point, the 3,000 runners had spread out enough that I had plenty of space and was at times even on my own during the first half. It was a countryside marathon that passed through numerous villages, so a very different experience from a city race. There is so much energy and hype in a city marathon like Chicago (my first), but this time, it was mostly quiet and peaceful, which is what I needed. I passed a small village around 7k and the locals were lining the streets and all cheered for me. At that point I got a little choked up at their kindness. Pull it together. I really enjoyed that first 10k and smiled and waved at everyone who came out to watch and cheer. In fact, I think I was smiling the whole time.

The next goal was to keep a steady pace until the halfway point. It was getting hotter and I started to regret not wearing sunscreen (sure enough, I got burnt). This was the quietest part of the race for me, but I didn’t mind. I knew I would be catching up with some of the others later on. I was feeling good and positive, but knew that the real challenge was still far off. I continued to smile and draw energy from the scattered spectators. Thankfully the water stations were well stocked (as opposed to Paris!) and so every 5 kilometers I picked up a bottle of water which more than lasted me to the next one. I was breezing by the kilometers and all was well.

I was happy to pass the halfway point. And that is when I started to catch up with people who were burning out. It was also just after the half way point that I saw the first “drop-out” vans. I ran past every one of these stations defiantly. No! Not going to drop out. Defiant, but also thankful that my body wasn’t shutting down and forcing me to quit. I just needed to make it to 30k and then the ultimate challenge would begin. Steady. Steady. During this section the pain started to set in. For a while my back was really hurting. Then my left knee. Then my right foot. There is always the possibility of injury and at the frequent medical stations from this point out there were always several people getting treated for one thing or another. But for me the localized pain came and went, or at least I forgot about it. Toward the end of this section, I really started to feel the burn in my legs.

I reached 30k still going strong and braced myself for the final stretch, knowing that it would hurt. But so far, I was feeling ok. Am I really running a marathon? Is this all it is? Yet I was starting to lose speed by this point and had to tell myself to stop thinking about the time. Still, my plan was to get to 35k and then go all out for the final 7. However, I was losing steam and around 35k I went into survival mode. I didn’t have enough left in me to burn so I resorted to just keep going. No more tracking my pace and my time, the goal was to just put one foot in front of the next. A lot of people were walking in these last kilometers, but I decided that no matter how slowly I was running, I wasn’t going to stop now. You knew it would be hard. You knew it would hurt. Just keep going. I let out some groans in those last kilometers, which seemed to stretch on forever. I tried to focus on reaching the next, and then the next. I convinced myself to rejoice in the fact that I was going to finish and not think about how slow I was going. Nausea set in and my last bottle of water fell out of my hand and onto the ground. One man said, “Just 500 meters left!” and I wanted to yell, “LIAR!!!” because we had not even passed the 41k mark yet.

During the final kilometer, there were a lot of people walking by, many of whom had already finished, encouraging us, “You’re going to finish.” “You’re almost there.” “It’s the last stretch.” “You’re doing great.” At this point was impossible to smile and wave and say “merci” to these kindhearted people, who were looking more like blurry movements on the sidelines. I just did my best to not scowl at them and simply keep moving forward. Finally onto the red carpet, slight acceleration and DONE!

I stepped to the side, leaned on a side rail for a few seconds and tried to catch my breath. Then I turned around, wiping away a few tears and started walking. Ouch. A woman placed a medal around my neck and I choked back tears again but still managed to say, “merci.” It’s over. I finally completed my second marathon. Thank you Jesus.

On the bus back to St. Malo, I met a man from Portland and we talked for the entire journey back. He had completed 42 marathons and was having a blast racing all over the world. We talked about many aspects of running, from injuries to adventure marathons. But one thing he said really stuck with me. “You know, whenever you tell another runner that you run marathons, they always ask about your time. They don’t even consider that your goal might not be time-based. I’m happy to run slower marathons as long as I’m enjoying the experience and I think that I’ll automatically get faster as I get stronger and more experienced. I just don’t want to be so focused on time that I no longer enjoy running.” His marathon goal is 7 continents and 50 states. Very cool.

That was inspiring to hear. I just need to keep going. Even though my training was sub-par this time around, I still ran 22 minutes faster than my first marathon in Chicago almost six years ago. I think that this is evidence that all of my training in-between has made me stronger. Experience also makes me stronger. And the process makes me stronger. I’m already registered for the Paris Marathon in April 2015 and I look forward to continuing this journey.

I will always remember my first marathon in Chicago when my dad and sister kept showing up at different points along the route and also at the finish. They really kept me going. So it meant a lot to me that they both followed my progress online for my second marathon as well, my dad in Indiana (6 hours behind) and my sister in Japan (7 hours ahead). So they still kept me going, even from a distance!

I am thankful for the opportunity to celebrate life this past weekend and for the experience of pushing through something that is really hard because I know that it will be worth it in the end. God refreshed my spirit in the process and reminded me that as long as I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I can endure whatever ups and downs still lie ahead on the roller-coaster of life.

Marathon 2014 – My celebration of life (part 1)

I’ve had my eye on the Marathon de la Baie du Mont St Michel for many years. But when I signed up for it a few months ago, I only allowed myself to do so by reasoning that I simply wouldn’t go “all out” this time. I couldn’t. It was March and I had already lost a month of training due to being sick and was about to head to India. So I told myself I’d resume training upon my return, but would make it my goal for this marathon to simply finish, even if I had to combine running and walking to do so.

Unfortunately, I came back from India very sick and lost over two more weeks of training as I recovered. When I was able to start running again, the marathon was only eight weeks out and every run was grueling as my body was still weak. Yet I pushed through and completed all of my runs. Until five and a half weeks later when I set out for the one and only 20-mile run that I had planned. Not even seven miles into it, I got so dizzy that I had to stop running and started walking home (2 miles away). But when I started losing vision, I knew I couldn’t trust myself to keep walking so I had to take a taxi, which I never do in Paris. The lingering dizziness prevented me from running a 10k race that I had planned to do with my dad who was visiting that weekend. As I stood on the sideline cheering him on, it seemed impossible to consider running a marathon in two weeks. Still, I wasn’t quite ready to give up. Maybe I could still do half of it and then drop out.

New strategy? Rest all week and then attempt a 10-mile run the next weekend. If all goes well, try to at least start the marathon. The 10-mile run was a bit sluggish but I felt ok afterwards. Of course, I still wanted to finish the marathon, but I was also keenly aware of my body’s physical limitations and didn’t want to abuse it beyond reason.

7_Plan_parcours_marathon_26_06_2013-300x241I had planned to arrive in Saint Malo two days before the marathon to have some time to relax and visit Mont Saint Michel, where the race would finish. This marathon is unique in that you can see the finish from the start and over the course of 26.2 miles you see Mont Saint Michel getting bigger and bigger.

I had no idea how much I needed to leave Paris until I had left. Leaving gave me time and space to reflect. And I started to recognize how many times I had been “knocked down” during the past five months, and not only physically. I was losing my physical, emotional and spiritual stamina. Most people would probably say I needed rest. But I knew that more than anything I needed a deep renewal and healing that comes only from God. And maybe throw in a marathon, too?

I also reflected upon my life since my first and only other marathon in Chicago in 2008. As soon as I finished, I said I wanted to do another one. And I tried several times. Yet I kept running into physical roadblocks, the most difficult one to swallow was a stress fracture that prevented me from running the Paris marathon last year after 17 weeks of training for it. At the same time, I have experienced many spiritual victories during these years. It really has been a roller-coaster ride; the highs are high and the lows are low, and often I feel whiplashed in the process.

Strategy revised yet again. Running this marathon would be a celebration of life, and a defiance of the Enemy’s constant attacks upon my being. Now I was determined to finish, not because I needed to prove anything, but as a metaphor for spiritual endurance.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2

The Mont Saint Michel landmark provides a point on which to focus throughout the course. So it brought a visual element to the “keeping our eyes on Jesus” part of this passage.

On Saturday, I spent the day at Mont Saint Michel. 1800+ stairs was perhaps not the best idea the day before a marathon, but I enjoyed my stroll through the abbey and along the ramparts. Then I hid away in a café to carb-load on spaghetti. On the ride back to Saint-Malo, where I was staying, the bus driver mentioned that the marathon was taking place the next day. He pointed out the start (in Cancale) and the finish (Mont Saint Michel) as we were somewhere in-between. It was a daunting sight. That is really far.

From there I went to the Expo to pick up my race bib and packet. And even though it was a full day, I think being out all day helped me to fall asleep that night. I slept for almost seven hours.

2014-05-25 08.15.48Sunday morning I was off by 6:30 a.m., took a shuttle to Cancale and prepared to take on the race. And so here I am at the start line: nervous yet optimistic. I didn’t yet know what was about to hit me.

 

 

Human

This song has a redemptive message for me. It speaks to my tendency to be a workaholic, to the drive that doesn’t know when to stop and the obligation I feel to “be there” for everyone at all times.

But even more specifically, it proclaimed a specific rebuttal to a message that was spoken to me almost a decade ago.

I have never worked myself as hard as I did when I was in college. I regularly worked graveyard shifts at a residence hall desk during which time I completed my homework, and then when I got off, sometimes I would go running or to class. At one point I was taking both sleeping pills and caffeine pills to survive. And then I was starting to prepare for graduate school auditions. So I would lock myself away for hours and get lost in my repertoire.

On one of those days, a friend called and asked me to leave the practice room to go hang out with friends that evening. That was a lot to ask, but after a bit of persuasion I agreed, “just for an hour.” I started to get stressed out when an hour turned into two, and then three. Finally I insisted on resuming my practice. As we walked back to campus together, he asked me how I am able to keep going at the pace that I do. I was annoyed by the challenge, and tried to explain that I was just doing what I needed to do. Maybe he was annoyed with me as well, or just wanted to make a point when he said,

“You’re more like a machine that keeps producing and producing and producing than you are a human being.”

Ouch.

No one wants to be called a machine, no matter how much they act like one.

Those words have echoed through my head ever since.

A few weeks after this scene, I was rushed to the emergency room in the middle of the night, and then transferred by ambulance to another hospital. The machine had reached its limit.

I’m only human, and I bleed when I fall down.
I’m only human, and I crash and I break down.

I’m not a machine, and in her single hit, Christina Perri voices both sides of this struggle that many of us face. For me, the imagery of a machine in the music video was especially powerful.

Of course, “only human” isn’t the complete picture. I believe that being human is also something to be celebrated. It’s amazing what humans can do. I added this song to my running playlist and when it started playing during an 18-mile marathon training run the other day, I realized what a bad idea that was. I started seeing images of myself tripping over a pebble and crashing to the ground, knees scraped and bleeding. That’s not the way to get through a difficult workout. In some moments, we do well to celebrate the extraordinary capabilities of humanity.

But as humans, we also have limitations, and as someone who constantly struggles to respect my own limits, this is something I need to hear from time to time. Although I hate falling down, I’m thankful for the reminder that I am not a machine.

Reflections on the Relevance of Classical Music

[This reflection was originally distributed as a program insert at my graduate recital, DePaul University School of Music, Chicago, 2008.]

At a recent symphony concert, a woman in the audience furrowed her eyebrows when she learned that my two friends and I were graduate students in violin performance. “Where is your future?” She stammered. “Have you noticed the hair color of the majority of this audience?”

These questions triggered more questions in my mind. Should we musicians pursue a profession where the “strong survive and the weak get crushed”? Should we feel threatened by a bleak outlook on a “dying” musical genre? If our concert halls are cold and empty or void of the younger generation, should we find another venue or vary our presentation? Do we believe strongly enough in the “rightness” of Beethoven, the depth of Brahms and the spirituality of Bach that we would fight for their survival? Or is there something even greater that would beguile us to such a cause?

For many, melodies and harmonies give meaning to life. They slip through our fingers, but draw us back again. Music gives an idea of perfection that keeps evading us the closer we trod. Live music somehow helps us to live the present moment beyond the barrier of time. It’s a puzzling paradox of hope and longing, of a rightness that seems so close but never completely within our reach. Why does a quest for beauty so captivate our hearts and an aim for perfection frustrate us? Are these ideals really what we desire? Or are they merely echoes of a voice? So often moved by the beauty of music, my heart compels me to believe the latter.

The metaphysical complexity of music not only fascinates me; it allows me to better know the Composer and Conductor of life. Symphonies give me a picture of what God intended the world to be: a place of unity, harmony and diversity. Yes, my world is broken, but not hopeless. Jesus is my greatest hope and most precious treasure. As music kindles that passion and compels me to surrender to Christ, I am empowered by his strength, sustained by his grace, and secure in his love.

Clearly, not every moment is glorious. I deal with disappointment, imperfection and uncertainty on a daily basis, but I finally gave up on consequential thoughts of quitting. In Christ, my future is secure. Music helps me to anticipate a world made right and to sing of that hope even today, a hope that is available through God’s radical mercy and rescue from my enslaving sin. Such a pursuit may not easily add up in dollars, but I dream about taking the beauty and hope of Christ to the most oppressed corners of the world. In light of eternity, it seems as though music—varied across genre, era and culture—is entirely relevant.

Searching for God’s Rest

I’m in a funk. I am exhausted but I can’t sleep. I have things to process but I don’t want to think. I have places to be, but I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want to talk to anyone and I don’t want to go on…

This was me mid-June. By that time, I felt like I was just going through the motions. I had made it through a busy year, but I didn’t know how to continue. I was exhausted in every way – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Problem is, it wasn’t the first time in my life that I’d found myself in such a state. In fact, the feeling is all too familiar. When I’ve pushed myself too far, I tend to start withdrawing emotionally while continuing to go through the motions, so people may think I’m okay. In fact, I may even think I’m okay! Until I break down physically.

So this is the first time in my life that I put the brakes on before I crashed. Every other time, I would continue down this road and then wake up in a hospital bed. I remember once feeling absolutely relieved to be in that hospital bed because it meant that I couldn’t continue to go through the motions anymore. However, spending time in the hospital does not provide the true rest that my body needs (what with nurses coming to take my blood at all hours of the night!) nor was it the place for emotional and spiritual recovery. It was merely recovery from being overworked and, essentially, self-abused. As soon as I had enough energy, I would be back in the race of life (I’ve even being yelled at by nurses for this!).

It’s been a few years since it got that bad, so it seems as though I’ve learned a thing or two about adding more space to my schedule and more room to breathe. I would always say, “I do sleep at least a little every night, er, most nights!” And that is how I defined rest. So I can honestly say that until this year, I have not really understood how Biblical rest applies to me personally. Toward the end of 2011, God impressed upon my heart the need to learn what rest really means. So I took a big step and blocked out four weeks of the summer, went to a location where I knew no one, with no agenda, and asked God what he wanted to show me about rest. Well, first I simply slept for a few days (actually it took me a while to learn how to sleep again!). Then I learned to be still before the Lord, and hear from him. The lessons are many, but here is a bit of what I learned as it relates specifically to rest.

First, I think that there are many illusions of rest in our lives. It’s possible to carve out a lot of time for things that seem restful but aren’t truly restful or sufficiently restful. For example, sleeping every night is a form of rest, but it is a necessary daily rest that is needed in order to function from day to day. It is also perhaps the form of rest that is most severely abused. How often do we really get sufficient rest on any given night so we can function to the best of our ability the next day (which I guess might mean waking up without an alarm clock and being alert without coffee)? Although I don’t work graveyard shifts anymore like I did in college, I still find that my nights are often cut short for one reason or another.

Another form of false rest could be, for example, watching television. Because of my driven nature, I couldn’t bring myself to even engage in this activity until the last few years. However, following the example of others, I started to come home sometimes, feeling exhausted, and figured that watching a movie or TV show would help me “unwind.” While I think this activity can have it’s place, it became for me more of an escape, because by watching television, I didn’t have to face life’s complications (which at times I really needed to do). It can be relaxing, but it’s not the kind of rest that God offers to us. Along the same lines, procrastination is not true rest, either (if nothing else it adds more stress in the long run).

Taking vacation can be restful, but “vacation” does not necessarily equal rest. A few years ago I went on a road trip with a friend. We covered a lot of ground in a short time, had many early mornings, hit as many attractions as possible and spent a lot of time walking and hiking. When I returned home, I was more exhausted than before I left. Yet I was applauding myself for finally taking a “real” vacation! While it was a fun and interesting trip, it could not be equated with the true rest that God intends for us.

The theme of rest in the Bible is extensive and is covered from Genesis (God rested on the seventh day – Gen 2:2-3) to Revelation (the dead will rest from their labor – Rev 14:13). Much of Scripture’s storyline involves rest. God instituted the seventh day to be the Sabbath rest for his people (Ex. 31:15), the Temple was God’s resting place (Ps 132:8, 14) and God was leading his people into a land of rest (Deut 12:8-11). The theme continues throughout Scripture with more instructions along the way and our eternal promise as believers to enter God’s rest (Heb 4). This summer, God has helped me to better understand the following six lessons about rest.

1. Rest is a gift from God

God promised to give rest to the Israelites throughout their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land (Ex 33:14). Jesus also promises rest to all who come to him (Matt 11:28-30). Yet because it is a gift, it can either be accepted or denied. The Israelites did not enter God’s rest because of unbelief (see Hebrews 4). We can only benefit from this gift if we accept it.

2. Rest is found in the presence of the Lord

God told Moses, who was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex 33:14). Scripture also seems to indicate that finding rest in God’s presence involves a movement away from the noise and business of life and toward God. The Psalmist speaks of finding rest through stillness and quietness in God’s presence (Ps. 23:2; 37:7). Jesus calls the weary away from their work and to himself for rest (Matt 11:28-30, Mark 6:31). Herein I believe lies the difference between the superficial forms of rest listed above and God’s rest. We can stop all activity and still neglect being quiet before the Lord. Scripture also seems to indicate a need for time in God’s presence that extends beyond our daily communication with him through Bible study and prayer. Even though I am in communion with the Lord throughout my daily activities, I definitely found something sacred about stepping away from my daily activity for a time of serenity in God’s presence.

3. Rest is personal

Searching for God’s rest is an individual journey. It cannot be prescribed or forced. I think it may also take different forms based on individual needs and life’s seasons. I was blessed to have four weeks in a place of quiet solitude. Yet this would not be possible or practical for some of my friends who are young mothers. Still, they definitely need time to rest in God’s presence, as well. We should all make it a priority in life to rest, but in a way and space that works in our individual situations. God called me to take drastic action this summer to find rest (something like a detox from my normal routine perhaps?), but I also know that it is possible to find rest in places closer to home and on a more regular basis.

4. Rest is life-giving

In Luke 13:10-17, we read the story of a synagogue leader rebuking Jesus for healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath day. The synagogue leader thought the Sabbath was about rules instead of understanding that true rest comes when we meet with God. The woman found the most important aspect of rest that day – she met with Jesus and was set free from her bondage. It’s so easy to start thinking that Sabbath=Sunday (or another day of the week) instead of realizing that Sabbath=Rest.

The time of rest this summer has definitely been life-giving for me as I have met with Jesus. You could say it’s been hard work as he has been showing me areas of my heart that need to be submitted to him. Yet it has truly been life-giving. It has brought me back to the reality that true life, joy, and peace are found in Christ alone and that all the other cares of life should never creep into that sacred place of intimacy with God.

5. Rest is a discipline

In the context of Sabbath rest, not working is associated with self-denial several times in Scripture (Lev 16:29-31; 23:28-29, Num 29:7). It just seems a bit ironic, thinking of the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), that Mary was the one denying herself by not rushing about to serve Jesus. From a distance, it seems like Martha was the selfless one.

In our fast-paced world, it is not surprising that many of us find it difficult to step away from our work. How easily work can become an idol, a part of our identity, or an obsession. When God calls us to rest, we are denying ourselves of something that is close to our heart – our work, our labour. It takes humility and vulnerability to be able to walk away from our work in order to come into God’s presence and recognize our utter dependence upon him. Consciously doing that on a regular basis requires discipline. Especially for those of us who are recovering workaholics. In Hebrews 4:10, we are admonished to make “every effort” to enter God’s Sabbath rest.

6. Rest is healing

This is obvious when it comes to sports. Any serious athlete knows that ignoring rest in a training regime will be detrimental to their health and physical ability. We also need time and space for emotional and spiritual healing. Like going to therapy, we need time to process the difficult moments of our lives with our Savior and hear from him about what is right and true for us. If we don’t take time for healing when it is needed, we can start to shut down emotionally or blame God for pain and distance ourselves from him. It is easy to run to others with our pain and find an empathetic ear. It can be difficult to go to the Lord where we risk being convicted about our sin, letting go of our idols and forgiving our offenders. Yet Jesus alone can heal our souls and make us whole again. For an amazing picture of the kind of healing that can be experienced through fasting and entering God’s rest, read Isaiah 57-58.

This summer, I have experienced healing in many areas of my life and I feel like I’m in a much healthier state than I was in June. I think that when we have truly and sufficiently rested, we will be motivated to action, recharged and ready for a fresh start. Thankfully, that is where I am now. It’s a new feeling for me, but definitely a good one. And now as I return to the craziness of life, I realize how important it is to escape for a quiet retreat from time to time—whether it be for an afternoon, a day, a weekend, a week—I  don’t want to live life anymore without fully embracing God’s gift of rest.

Lord, I Believe a Rest Remains
by Charles Wesley, 1740

Lord, I believe a rest remains
To all Thy people known,
A rest where pure enjoyment reigns,
And Thou art loved alone.

A rest where all our soul’s desire
Is fixed on things above;
Where fear, and sin, and grief expire,
Cast out by perfect love.

O that I now the rest might know,
Believe, and enter in!
Now, Savior, now the power bestow,
And let me cease from sin.

Remove this hardness from my heart,
This unbelief remove:
To me the rest of faith impart,
The Sabbath of Thy love.