Run to him.
Arms open, body worn, heart rent.
The last month has brought upon our family, quite suddenly, a season of unexpected change. Where we live and how we spend our days are up in the air. I know that I am not defined by these outer characteristics, but in my heart, I sometimes feel as if who I am is being called into question. My heart is anxious, and my hands are busy.
In the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, what does it mean to observe the Sabbath? When your to-do list is linked with a ticking clock and there’s no escaping the tyranny of what must be done, how do you rest?
This one, at least, doesn’t seem to have any problems relaxing.
The dictionary defines Sabbath as a “special day of prayer and rest.” There’s value in that, in withdrawing and setting aside, in making space each week for respite. But to simply pause our activities is not, I believe, what we are asked to do. We are called to so much more.
In this time of uncertainty, Jesus tells me that true Sabbath rest is found in him. Again and again throughout the Gospels, he reminds Pharisees and disciples alike that Sabbath rules are not Lord of him, but that he–the Christ–is Lord of the Sabbath. (See Luke 6:1-11) He does not cease to do good or to care for the needy just because it is the prescribed day of rest, but he shows that true rest comes when we turn to him.
Should we rest? Yes and amen. But that rest must consist of turning from self and turning to him. In this time, for me at least, Sabbath rest means not less than ceasing my “deadly doing,” but much more.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
In 2013, we will (Lord willing) become parents.
There! Finally! The announcement! At the end of June, we are expecting a third, and grateful seems a weak and paltry word to explain the joy and thankfulness that we feel.
I’ve wanted to write about this hope we have carried since the autumn morning we first began to dream, but it’s only now, nearly 16 weeks later, that I feel confident–I think?–enough to put my thoughts in the form of a thing as concrete as words. It will be two years next month since Michael and I began to hope we could grow our family, two short years that stretched long as we were in the midst of them.
In the summer of 2011, we experienced two miscarriages, both very early, one following on top of the other. Losses that were painful at the time, yes, but which grew to hurt much more in retrospect than my heart allowed me to feel in the harried heat of the moment. It was only after the second miscarriage that I started to worry, fearing that perhaps these losses were not just a normal part of life but indicated a deeper problem, an issue with me, an unfitness in my very body. Nearly a year and a half of silence followed, and during that year I struggled: to hope for myself, to rejoice with others, to trust that God is good to me and Michael and that his plans for us are created out of infinite love.
(Oh, and I fear that I sound like a whiny child. There are so many others who have experienced much worse loss, much deeper fear, life events that are more difficult and even harder to explain and accept. And there are others I know who have walked this specific road of frustrated longing far longer and with far less hope than I. All I can say is: I know I am fortunate. I cannot explain it, but we do not, not anymore at least, take this hope for granted.)
The truth is this: our Father does care for us, and even our deepest hurts–wherever they lie–can be taken up and made into something more beautiful than would be possible without those very pains. Just look at the Cross! I believe this, I hold to it, and I think (hope) that now I can even say I am grateful for the rocky sections of the path he has chosen for us.
Do you have moments when you feel like this?
Wide-eyed with desperation, bearing an aching gut and hoping for what you know almost certainly can’t be real, the faint belief that this nightmare is indeed just a nightmare. That “joy comes in the morning,” that the streaming purple and gold light on the horizon really do tell of hope and truth and life, glorious, radiant, unbelievable life.
I recently came across this painting, Eugene Burnand’s “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection,” for the first time–on my Pinterest, where else?–and this painting has been lodged in my mind ever since. Perhaps it’s Peter’s eyes, wild and scared. Or John’s clasped hands and anxious, leaning body as he hurries to the tomb. All I know is that I so often feel the same way: terrified and uncertain and just barely beginning to hope, a little bit way deep down, that the hope I cling to is real.
I feel this way every year, I think, with the slow and temperamental wearing-out of winter as I ache for spring, for warmth and beauty. I am thankful, this year as every year, for the rhythms of the church calendar which remind me anew each season of the oldest and best story there is. The story spelled out so beautifully in this art: that because of Him, death leads to life and our rancid hurts can bloom beautiful with life. That our deepest fears, even the fears which are real, are not the deepest and most real thing.
The most real thing, that which is stronger even than death, is life which flows from and through the Son.
He is risen!
He is risen indeed.