Is this a restful season for you?
I was thinking of this as I was putting the kitchen gardens to bed for the winter. The garlic was long ago planted, and everything else has been either pulled up or pruned, and a nice thick layer of mulch put on top. It doesn’t feel like bracing for winter; it feels like tucking in children underneath warm coverlets and watching them fall asleep, snuggled in safely. My gardens are ready for rest, for a pause in the work of taking in sunshine and putting forth roots and growing and expending energy to fight pests. In a similar pause, my work of cultivating and harvesting and weeding also pauses. As I stood with my trowel at the end of the cleanup, I thought, “now my garden can rest.”
And the next thought was, “now…..can you?”
Well, of course not. Because the inside work continues. I still must cook, clean, do laundry, homeschool. But during this time of Advent, it seems the races are on to do ever more: fill out the calendar with events, plan extra baking, create or purchase gifts, and so forth. But I do wonder if on those Advent days it might be worthwhile to set aside time to daydream, watch the sunset, call out the owls, and take walks. Sometimes creation just beacons.
Maybe it’s not creation calling after all. Maybe it’s Jesus. And maybe He knows that if I take time to watch the wind blow through the firs He will find a more ready ear. You know how sometimes you (or maybe it’s just me but I doubt it) open the laptop for “just 5 minutes…” and then it’s suddenly two hours later? I’m just wondering. How come that doesn’t more readily happen in prayer? Or Bible reading? Or in meditating on His Word? Like, “Oops! Spent too much time with You, God!”
Sometimes I am like this empty greenhouse. Ready for the Potter but I don’t make the capital T Time for Him to start planting more. So the spirit stands ready but the body and mind are operating like whirlwinds in a pinball machine, simply hitting things and making lights bling and bells sound but not really accomplishing anything. Not really.
Sometimes God will use a trial to draw you. Maybe you don’t have enough money for the gifts you want to buy. Maybe you don’t even have enough to fill the gas tank. Maybe you just got a divorce or your daughter was rude to you or the invitation to the party didn’t come or the doctor’s news wasn’t good. Sometimes a little navel gazing is good, to examine ourselves. Mainly, this too is an opportunity to draw near to Christ. There is nothing more important in times good OR bad than to draw near to Christ. But sometimes it takes a hard thing in our lives to even acknowledge Him at all. And to remember how we accepted good things–no, expected good things–because…well…we breathe air. But even the air we breathe is a gift. Advent is a good time to practice gratitude.
The fruit trees are pruned and the barn is quiet. Surely there are times of the Lord taking away from us. What probably hurts most are the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) idols we have put before Christ. There is a reason and a season for any loss, but in the end we have His promise that He which hath begun that good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (see Phil 1:6). We can trust Christ to order our steps, so we can rest in Him working all things out. Advent is a good time to contemplate and reminisce of all of the times past He has given each of us rest, even from some things and people we thought were so important to and in our lives. And because He is faithful, we can cultivate trust this season by spending time, even extra time, reading and studying His words, in His Word. And, really, what’s really more important than that?
Resting is good for the soul. It is good for the body and mind, too. Winter here brings us to darkness around 4:30 in the afternoon. But the curse of electric power is the ability to stay up later and longer. Sometimes we are too smart for our own good, trying to get in extra chores, extra reading, extra (fill in the blank) long into the night, until we at last literally collapse into our beds, exhausted. And yet the list is not in actuality crossed off, for in the new day a fresh one appears. And appears. And appears. And we must gain some measure of accomplishment, some pride over doing our duties well and diligently, if we forsake sleep(s) to do so. And yet, God grants His beloved sleep (see Ps 127:2). Perhaps if more candles were lit and blue screens blown out, our bodies would know proper rest. Perhaps we take advantage of the earlier darkness to close our eyes sooner this Advent?
I allow my animals to rest, too. I cannot bring myself to give my hens supplemental light. Sentimentality, perhaps. But I’ve yet to have an eggless winter, even if the quantity decreased. The Lord provides in times of quiet, too. Perhaps if you are caring for animals, there is some way to lessen the workload. Maybe a season off of breeding, or insuring a winter load of hay is in the barn so to avoid frequent trips to the supplier, or even downsizing. There are seasons for everything, yes?
Advent can be a time of gaining new awareness, of practicing observation and opening our eyes more and tuning our ears. It is one thing to see and hear of a need and to jump up and volunteer to help. It is another to first take those needs to the Lord, diligently pray for them, and to wait. Maybe we are called to serve in that need. But maybe we aren’t. And we don’t have to do every traditional craft or event we always have done, just because we’ve always done it. Following Jesus throughout this season–and in fact every season–being yoked with Him, is never a burden, never harried nor heavy. It is a joy that we often do not take the time to pursue because we are too busy with our hands into too many places and our minds onto too many things. “Resting” just sounds, well, not very *productive*. Perhaps this Advent is a good time to challenge that thinking.
My family has a lot of decisions to make this upcoming year. In fact, I’m calling it “the year of decision”. The choices are laid before us and we wait to hear from the Lord so as to follow Him. As we wait on Him, and ultimately wait FOR His coming, His return, He commands us many, many times in Scripture to rest, to be at rest. Do you? Are you?
I am still a student at this and still rise too early, stay up too late, eat the breads of sorrows. I know it is difficult to put aside the clamor of our current lives and lifestyles. But I do believe it is a worthy endeavor to spend some time contemplating how our manner of walking in this world goes, and if it matches well to that of our Master. What is Advent really for, if not to prepare for His coming? And if He calls us to rest, ought we not to consider our ways, repent where needed, and obey?
Again, is this a restful season for you? Do you need to rearrange anything in heart, mind or time to allow yourself to have that rest?
Matthew 11:28-29 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.