I’ve been working on a running program with one of my kids. We are at the point now where we just run for long periods of time without any scheduled “walk breaks.”  With vicious dogs left to roam their yards unattended, we have a single course we can run through the neighborhood that keeps us out of harm’s way. I’m glad for the safe route, but sometimes it gets really boring. Add to that our neighborhood is really hilly. So, as a distraction from the monotony and the painful hills, the other day I decided to turn on some music during our run. The first song that played was “Not Home Yet” by Steven Curtis Chapman. I can’t even tell you the lyrics right now because all I kept thinking as my feet pounded the pavement was “I want to be home. I don’t want to be running. We’ll have to run forever. I just want to rest.”

Now I know Chapman’s song was about our forever home, but I was only thinking about getting back to my house so I could stop running and rest.

Rest.

That’s funny, right?

I have seven kids, there would be no rest when I got home.

Yet I put my hope in just getting home to rest all the same.  And when I walked in the door and seven voices wanted something from me, I got a little grumpy. {OK, a lot grumpy.} I’m not really sure what I expected, but I think it was something along the lines of putting my feet up and eating bon-bons all day.  I spent my entire run focusing on something I had no real hope of attaining.  In reality, I was hoping for something I wouldn’t even enjoy, but it grabbed my attention when I was tired and took root and bore some pretty ugly fruit.

That’s when I realized I have lived under a false expectation of rest for years. I think I have always considered rest to be the absence of work, maybe like the physics definition of rest: a body not in motion, inactive, inert.

I’m starting to think that biblical rest is not inactive.

When God rested on the seventh day from the work he had done, from the work of creation, he wasn’t inactive. He didn’t stop holding the world together. He didn’t stop being in control of the molecules and atoms and quarks. He didn’t cease to be in relationship with the Son and the Spirit. He rested, but he was not inactive, inert, or motionless.

I’m not sure he means us to be either. Even our sabbath rest is for rest and worship.  Worship is active!

The problem arises when I operate from an inaccurate definition of rest. My *wrong* expectations go unmet, and I tend to get bitter. I come to that beautiful verse about coming to Jesus when I am weary and him giving me rest… and I ignore the part about wearing his yoke and bearing his burden. When I live for the idea of motionless, inactive, inert moments to just “be,” I miss out on the beauty of his promise.

We must start by (re) defining rest.

Jesus’ rest involves a yoke and a burden. I don’t think oxen sleep in their yokes.  A yoke is put on oxen for work.  When I see His yoke means work for which I was created, and His light burden is rest for my soul that would otherwise be burdened with sin, I can walk in contentment, whatever my circumstances. My strength is renewed when my hope is in Him (and not an incorrect understanding of rest). I can run the race He has set before me without growing weary when I set my eyes on His finish line. I can walk in His ways without growing faint when I let His word light my path.

I have to own that part of what has been draining me has been setting my heart on a desire for rest that has no biblical basis. What I have desired is a moment to not be about my Father’s business. As soon as that idea took root in my heart, it grew into an idol. And serving the idol of I-must-have-time-to-cease-working-for-a-bit has worn me out. I can never satisfy that god and that god will not ever deliver what it seems to promise.

Defining Rest

There is only one remedy for idolatry: repentance.

There is only one way to come to Jesus and experience his rest: repentance.

Apparently there is only one thing I really need to do today to enter the rest for which I long.