As I stared at the flickering cursor on a blank web page for the third day in a row, I prayed in desperation, “Lord, I’ve come all the way across the country to seek Your face, hear Your heart, finally alone and undisturbed. You miraculously provided this house for me. You gave me the most thoughtful friend to load it with food, supplies and fill it with scriptures everywhere I turn. Whatever this block is…sin, pride, maybe I’ve grieved You…please show me. Time is ticking and I’m getting nothing accomplished…please HELP!”
My prayer was encased in panic with undertones of “failure.” Life back home was filled with constant distractions, demands, and responsibilities. I had a retreat coming up, a Bible study to teach, and a very important, but strenuous assignment that needed to be finished in a few days. My husband and I had gotten down on our knees and asked for help and within 24 hours, I had a plane ticket, a breathtaking place to stay for free, and all of my needs provided for…miracle! BUT…
As I sat in a vacationer’s dream on the beach, listening to the thunder of crashing waves outside, I literally ached. Physically, I felt like exhaustion and fatigue had become normal daily companions that never left. My body had begun to ache everywhere. Spiritually, I felt the weariness from constant warfare, the heaviness of responsibilities to my family, friends and the ministry, and strewn throughout everything I did, was a sense of “falling short” or “failure.”
Now in my head, I knew all about the Lord’s grace and thought I had crucified my “performance for approval” drive, but the Lord knew me better. It was the third day being in California and I had disciplined myself to stay in the house to work…but I had not a single page to show for it. When my husband would call, all I could say was, “I’m doing my best. I can’t make it happen.”
I began to tear up. “Lord, I can’t do this. I can’t hear You. I can’t sense You. I can’t keep up with life. I should go nowhere and do nothing if You haven’t sent me or equipped me.” I pushed myself away from the table and shut the cover of my laptop. I decided to go by the water and get my pale, northeastern skin some Vitamin D while I napped for an hour. Only an hour.
As I plopped myself in a beach chair to face a foreign orb of light called “the sun,” two young boys came up behind me, threw down their towels, a football, and the T-shirts off their backs. Their expressions were magnets for my attention as I watched them run to the edge of the water and suddenly scream at the top of their lungs, “We’re at the ocean! I can’t believe it! We’re actually at the ocean!” They laughed and did synchronized belly flops right into water that was too shallow. As sand went up their tattered shorts from the water’s tide, they grabbed their bellies and kept yelling nonsensical words of joy through laughter. It was highly infectious and I found myself mirroring their laughter.
The Lord’s voice gently interrupted me and said, “Shannon, I did not bring you all this way to work for Me. I brought you here to rest. Enjoy this oasis I prepared and put down your work for me. It is not why you are here.” I rubbed my puffy eyes and shamefully admit that I didn’t believe what I just heard in my heart. It didn’t make sense to me. How could I possibly rest the whole week while my husband was pulling double duty so I could finish all I needed to get done for next week? I rehearsed to the Lord my list of responsibilities and held it up to my schedule like a bill needing to be paid with an empty wallet. The Spirit gently spoke to me, “See those boys? Trust me and enjoy what I have brought you to. Rest in my love.”
This blog would be way too long if I continued with the details of the week, but I confess that I wrestled like Jacob at Penuel. I felt guilt every time I wasn’t working or when I sat down to relax. But every time I tried to study, absolutely nothing would come to my heart or mind. By the time I boarded the first plane to return home, I only had a small fragment of work accomplished.
Yet…when my plane landed in Rochester, NY, many hours later, I had three of the four messages for my retreat completed, as well as some other tasks. The Lord had poured out thoughts, directions, and scriptures so fast, I could barely keep up with them typing. After I got in the car to drive home, I zipped up my coat and looked out at dull, gray skies canvassed over barren trees and brown grass.
That whole week, I never entered into the rest Jesus called me to…guilt was a loud taskmaster. I never laughed with belly-filled joy like those boys…self-imposed burdens wrapped up in my unbelief stole that freedom. But I did listen to the Lord as my last plane was taxiing after we landed. He had said “I have given, and will continue to give, pockets of rest and opportunities for respite. Do not miss my opportunities and do not be so prideful to not ask for help. Do not consider it honorable to say “yes” to every ministry opportunity. Do not misapply “spend and be spent for the gospel’s sake.” My race allows you to finish well and with great joy, rather than crushed and heavy laden with burdens I did not give you. I Am rest. If I am God and took a day of rest…are you greater than Me?”
I realized that I had so embraced certain aspects of ministry and life, that I felt very guilty…somewhat lazy…if I ever took “down time.” My thoughts were like a rolodex, “How selfish you are. You’re not being faithful in the little things. You’re not being responsible. You laid your life down at the cross…your time is not your own.” On and on, the harsh voice that never originates from the mouth of God, echoed in my thoughts.
Two and a half years later, I have been called to sit beside still waters. I have been forced to rest, yet I still have a choice whether to enter into it or not. I can kick against this affliction, cry out against the pain, stay restless in my soul and anxious about my health…or choose to hear that same gentle voice that spoke to me on the beach, “Trust Me in this place I have brought you to. There is fellowship with Me in your suffering. There is joy despite pain. There is peace despite affliction. There is Light amidst your darkness, and there is a hand that hold you in your valley. These are only shadows…I Am your substance. Rest. Trust Me and rest.”