Rest in Peace…This Summer?

RIP

Perhaps one of the most common acronyms in the English language, ‘R.I.P.’ evokes memories of loved ones lost, eulogies for famous musicians on Facebook, and even corny yard decorations at Halloween. This condolence and outward expression of our inner sorrow and grief wishes a peaceful eternity to those whom we have loved and lost. The original Latin phrase, “requiescat in pace,” means “may he or she rest in peace.”

So, is it a given that you have to die to truly rest in peace?

In my crazy, loud, messy, chaotic household, I have asked myself this question…especially on this first week of summer break! Peace and quiet are a commodity around here. And then there’s the real anxiety and worry. What would I do if I ever lost my husband? Could I handle the death of a child? Am I a good enough wife and mother? Do people like me? Everyday stresses of work and finances alone cause unrest in most households, ours included.

In a recent sermon at Christ Community Church, Pastor Tom Nelson expressed that our cultural landscape is well described as ‘restless.’ No amount of massages, date nights sans kids or vacations will ever bring us true rest and peace. Anxiety and restlessness creep into our moments of quiet and erupt in the middle of our chaos.

Tom noted that even the Huff Post has addressed the subject. In an article titled, “5 Signs You’re Restless With Your Life (and What to Do About It),” Kevin Klatches writes that if you are feeling restless, you should “consider it a warning sign from your soul to take action.” He suggests, “Don’t settle for restlessness…The universe is calling on you to take action. Listen to it.”

He’s so right. The universe is calling on us to take action. The Creator of the Universe gently calls to us…

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke…and you will find rest for your souls.” -Matthew 11: 28-29

Are you living with a restless heart? Is there an unsettling discontent or anxiety that marks your life? Do you feel emotionally and spiritually weary?

In his book, The Life We Long to Live: the yoke, Tom Nelson warns us that “…our thirsty souls are chasing mirages…” We hang out in the desert while the One who offers streams of healing waters bids us to come.

Isaiah 58:11 promises, “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

My only hope for a rested soul is when I seek the transforming presence of God regularly…when I open my heart and let Him meet me where I am – often tired, weary and anxious.

This summer, whether we find ourselves in a sun-scorched land or a pool of anxiety, may we hear the Creator of the Universe beckoning, “Be still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10.

Because we don’t have to die to rest in peace.

++++++++++++++++++++

*This song, Come To Me, by Bethel Music is worth a listen at least once, maybe a hundred times…

“…I am the Lord your peace…
Steady now your heart and mind
Come into my rest…
And lift up your weary head
I am with you
Wherever you go

Come to me, I’m all you need
Come to me, I’m everything…”

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Lonely In a Room Full of People

Loneliness

A month or two ago, after our move to California, I would have told you that I was not quite ready to make new friends. But that sentiment has changed. I’ll admit it…I’m lonely now. I’m in a new place and missing having best friends nearby.

I used to think loneliness was a weakness. Or that you could only be lonely if you don’t have any friends or people around you. But I have lots of friends across the country. And a loving husband in my home. I have little people around me almost all of the time. My little pink shadow, Hannah, pretty much never leaves my side. We recently had 4 sets of visitors in 5 weeks. I haven’t exactly been alone. As a matter of fact, I LOVE to be alone. I CRAVE time alone. But I am restless. There is an ache in my heart.

Wikipedia will tell you that loneliness is “a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship.” Among the steps to deal with loneliness, WikiHow suggests getting a pet or joining an online community. I get it. There are plenty of people who suffer from loneliness due to being isolated. I could benefit at this point by getting out there and putting a bit more effort into developing new friendships.

I have thought about this topic a good bit over the last month or so as these feelings of loneliness have snuck up on me. As the topic of loneliness keeps presenting itself over and over in different contexts – blogs, books, articles, sermons – I’m realizing that perhaps loneliness is more ‘normal’ than I realized. Even The Huffington Post defines loneliness as a basic human condition – “To be alive is to be lonely” says the venerable HuffPost. Well, that’s crappy…no one ever told me that…Except they kind of did.

When I was in high school, my Young Life leaders told us about a ‘God-shaped-hole’ in our hearts. One that nothing could fill, except for God. They said that trying to fill that hole in my heart – with even the best things of this world alone – would leave me feeling empty. Twenty years later, I still struggle with how that reality affects my life day in and day out.

Success doesn’t cure loneliness. Attention doesn’t cure loneliness. Being in a room full of people doesn’t cure loneliness. Close friends and family really don’t even cure loneliness. I have found that on the days when I have posted a picture on Facebook or shared a new post on my blog – the days I keep looking at my screen to see who has liked or commented…those are the days my loneliness is emphasized. Not necessarily because I miss my friends. But because I’m looking in the wrong places to fill the hole in my heart.  Lately, in this new place, I keep thinking – if I can just get in a visit (or a phone date) with a good friend or family member…if I can just post a picture to share my life with friends and family…if I could just steal a couple of hours alone with my husband…if I can just find my routine. But every time these are the only ways I try to fill my heart, I come up not.quite.full. So based on my own personal experience, to be alive and not seeking my God first, is to be lonely. Maybe The HuffPost is on to something.

Perhaps loneliness isn’t a weakness. Perhaps it’s not a curse on the human condition. Because so often, it’s this loneliness that drives us back to God. In her book, Playdates with God, Laura J. Boggess describes this desperate, empty feeling as “groping for God.”  Boggess quotes Saint Augustine from AD 397 as writing that our “heart is restless until it rests in You.” AD 397!  Clearly, loneliness is not a new cultural phenomenon, and I’m not alone in my restlessness.

Blogger, Sara Hagerty wrote,

“He made me to crave being known and yet He allows me to feel the all-too-frequent disconnect between what I think I need, from another, and how they respond. He carved this hole. And only He will fill it. Holy lonely.”

This Holy Lonely she writes of drives us back to God. Loneliness is a gift for those of us who struggle to balance the joys of this world with our fulfillment in God. Loneliness re-orients us to the One and Only. He then points us to the many, many blessings in this life.

When Jesus was teaching his closest buddies in Matthew 6, he told them to FIRST seek the Kingdom of God…then everything else will follow. The companionship of true friends and close family is most definitely a blessing that I hope to never take for granted. I can’t imagine navigating my life without them. And I look forward to developing close friendships here in our new community. But I’m just still learning…over and over again…that the best friends and family in the world don’t quite cure the restlessness for me.

As a matter of fact, maybe even being alone more could be the key to healing my aching heart. My friend, Doug Swagerty, recently preached a sermon on loneliness at Christ Church Santa Fe. He encouraged the congregation to trade loneliness for solitude. He shared the wise words of Paul Tillich:

“Language…has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”

When I am able to find a bit of solitude to allow God to fill my ‘Holy lonely’, when I seek first the Kingdom of God, everything else does come a little bit more naturally.  And I feel more of a peace as to where God has me today and where He will take me. In this kind of glorious solitude, I can be alive and not lonely.  Very much alive, actually.  So there you go, HuffPost. When was the last time you enjoyed a bit of glorious solitude?

In the long run, I will see that loneliness is not a weakness. As a matter of fact, I believe that loneliness will have strengthened me. The ache in my heart reminds me just how much the people who surround me each day bring me happiness and joy.  And that same ache reminds me even more that my ultimate contentment rests elsewhere. You can be lonely in a room full of people. But the more mysterious and unique truth is that you can find complete peace in a bit of solitude.

“Be still, and know that I am God…”  ~Psalm 46:10
“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”  ~Isaiah 54:10