As my Christmas in California draws to a close and I prepare to get on yet another plane later this week, I ponder the mysteries in the rhythm of journey and rest.
Much of my life involves suitcases and travels, and in the midst of what sometimes feels like endless adjustments and transitions, I have learned I must find a place of peace. A place of peace that is not dependent on location, but is rooted, centered and secured in my relationship with Jesus.
I think this year, more than in previous ones, it became clear that chaos and crisis were seeking to reign. But Christmas reminds us that when chaos and crisis surround us, Christ in the creche is where our gaze belongs. Immanuel, God with us.
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.
Born to set Thy people free,
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
I love that this hymn, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus by Charles Wesley was inspired by the situation of orphans he observed in the areas around him. It makes the words of the hymn even more meaningful to me. You see, I spend a lot of my time with orphans, and I see up close their hunger for place and purpose. I take the phone calls late at night when even the “tough” teenagers call for no other reason really than to hear a kind voice. Then they have the gift of drifting off to sleep knowing someone cares…that they matter.
Christmas is another reminder we matter. That the God of the universe would leave the riches of heaven to come to earth, and arrive as a baby, weak and vulnerable, simply, but profoundly, conveys to us a better glimpse of our infinite value.
Because we all need reminders.
And right now, because it seems like the events and atmosphere of our world are conspiring to convince us we don’t matter, or our efforts don’t matter, or that nothing at all matters, we especially need that reminder.
For here is something I’ve learned through all my wanderings, and through the wisdom of the orphans He’s sent me to:
…the longing of their hearts are really no different than the longing of any of our hearts. Everyone wants a home. A place of safety in an unsafe world. A place where you are known and loved, in spite of your shortcomings.
And the absolute truth: none of us will find our rest until we find our place in Him. Our peace and purpose is in Him alone. He is our home. Others can satisfy for a season, but He alone secures our rest. Our peace in a loud, noisy, chaotic, crazy world will only come when our hearts are set on Him.
Does this mean the craziness ceases? No, no, though we may wish it be true, it means something better than that. It actually exceeds the wildest of hopes and dreams. It means “God with us”… for forever.
There’s no escaping His love. In the midst of the chaos, our God promises to stick with us.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
You will not drown
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you. Isaiah 43: 2-4
Oh, how poignant this reminder has been to me this Christmas! The rhythms of journey and rest, life and death have been on full display. I’m not sure it will translate on paper or computer well, but let me try by sharing with you this recent story.
Three days ago, when we left my Dad’s room, David heard a call for help from the resident across the hall. It was a faint whisper, but as we ‘leaned in,’ we heard the cry. And then I noticed the door cracked open. And I saw her.
Let me be honest. I could have not saw her. I was tired, and I wasn’t expecting a crisis outside my Dad’s door. I was on a mission to get out of there, so listening and lingering to catch the cries of others in need was not on my agenda.
But there she was. Though the door was not wide open, I could partially see inside, and how her arm was extended, as she held onto the doorknob. And she was feebly calling out, “Help! I need help! Someone help me.”
Though David noticed her first, because she was a woman living alone, I approached her door and asked, “Can I help you?”
“Yes, yes, I need help,” she said. “I can’t get to my table. They have moved my chair so I can’t find my way.”
I won’t go into details regarding all of our time together, but basically I spent some time helping my new friend sit down and get her bearings. Then I went downstairs to the front desk to tell them to send someone up to check on her as I was concerned about her being alone.
Two days later I was visiting my dad again, and when I left his room, I noticed a sign across the door entrance of this neighbor, reading, “Wet Paint.”
“Odd,” I thought to myself, “how does she get in and out of her room with that “Wet Paint” banner strewn across the entranceway?”
It wasn’t long before I was informed that this woman I had helped a mere two days earlier, had died, so they had already cleaned out her room and repainted it.
“Wow! How can that be?” A rush of thoughts raced through my mind and heart. Had I done enough? Yes, she seemed frail and confused, but many of the people I meet at this facility fit that definition.
Life, it truly is so fleeting. We don’t know how much time we have to live on this side of heaven. For anyone we meet, it could be the last time we see them. Do we interact with them based on that reality?
Perhaps that sounds morbid, but to me, it is a life-giving thought. Because if I don’t face the reality of life and death, I won’t ‘carpe diem’ the moments I have wisely.
I began this Christmas reflection pondering the mysteries of the rhythms of journey and rest. And it is an appropriate place to end as well, for the death of my dad’s neighbor highlights this message of journey and rest.
Where are you on this journey? Have you found your resting place in this sometimes scary crazy mixed-up, but beautiful world?
Because for me, whether I live or die, He is my resting place.
My prayer for you this Christmas and beyond, is that you will find your peace in Him as well.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5