Learning to Rest: Part 1

Do you remember when I wrote this post? It was late December, and I was coming to see how little I trust God with the future. Kirk and I had taken a "drive of psalms" that included spontaneous prayer of confession, and I had spilled immediately into a tear-drenched, prayer-filled confession of this distrust in God's real activity, this deeply held belief that my life and what gets made of it is all up to me and what opportunities I find or create. I didn't realize this truth was deep inside of me, but there it was: my belief in myself, my unbelief in God.

It made me sad. I could feel how exhausting it was, all the mental energy expended daily on the potential future, all of the thoughts turned constantly toward planning and hoping and imagining outcomes. It felt almost as though these thought patterns had become part of all the other involuntary, automatic processes of my internal world, something that just happened as my mind flew down its very well-greased tracks, just like my heartbeat happens or my nerve endings work without my having to ask them to. That's how much my mind-schemes about the future and utter dependence on myself had become a part of my waking reality.

A few days after that night of prayer and confession on the drive of psalms, the despondency over the truth of my heart and my inability to yield my trust to God had set in pretty deep. I was carrying the sadness around with me and didn't know what to do with it. That night, Kirk asked what it would look like to bring all of these things into the presence of Jesus.

So I sat and imagined myself doing that. In my mind, I pictured myself approaching the entrance of a garden I've come to know very well, situated on the grounds where we do our monthly Audire training. And as I imagined myself approaching this garden, I saw Jesus standing there at the entryway, waiting for me.

When I reached where he was standing, we stood at the entrance, facing each other. As I looked at him, I could feel all the growth of my long journey that has developed a deep bond of trust between us. It is a trust that allows me to look into his eyes and see deep love and compassion and delight, believing he feels each of those things deeply for me.

But in that moment, standing at the garden gate, I could sense that it wasn't the whole of myself receiving that love and delight and care. I could feel a part of myself being held back, almost off to the side, away from his line of sight. In fact, the deeper I looked into the image of the two of us standing there in my mind, the more I could see that my left hand was indeed clutching something, balled up in a fist over my heart as the entire left side of my body turned away from Jesus in shame.

I could tell that I was clutching in my fist the deepest, most inner core of my heart. I could tell, too, that even though a large part of my heart has experienced the love and life of Christ that I mentioned above, this part of my heart had never experienced it at all. Whereas a large part of me has become comfortable with mystery and ambiguity, alive to the adventure of living in the journey and not having to know all the answers, this part of my heart has been tucked away from all that growth, suffocated from the air and unable to receive the grace of that kind of trust.

I couldn't imagine giving Jesus this last part of my heart. It is the deepest core, functioning like the reserve tank of a car that the car pulls from when it has nothing left to burn. It seemed clear in that moment that my heart, without my knowing it, has been holing away vestiges of its familiar, former life as more and more of me has continued to be transformed by God's grace for these past many years. It has been preserving itself in its inmost reaches.

This inner sanctum has never been given over to Christ and has never experienced his gentle, tender, piercing presence. It cannot imagine the possibility of life outside the power of itself. And I could hardly believe it had been here all this time, functioning as though no transformation and growth had ever occurred in my life at all. Truth be told, that made me kind of mad.

As I stood there clutching this core of my heart, a hardened core that resembled an unopened pinecone dropped from a tree or the dark, hardened pit of a peach fruit, I saw myself attempting to hide this part of my heart from Jesus. And yet, as I watched myself attempting to hide, I experienced his patience. He wasn't trying to wrest this part of my heart away from my grasp, and he wasn't asking me to hurry up and be ready to give it to him already. It was as though he knew this part of my heart could only be given once it had grown to trust him, and that this kind of trust could only grow through an experience of his love and openness and gentle invitation. So he stood there, hand outstretched toward the left side of my body, just waiting with incredible patience.

Quietly, Kirk asked what I thought Jesus might say to me in that moment. I felt the stronger part of me that is more accustomed to receiving Christ's love and living in it everyday look into his eyes and hold his gaze. Slowly, I voiced the question: What would you say to me right now?

As we stood there together, his hand outstretched and my left side turned from him in shame, I heard Jesus say: I understand.

He understands why I am holding back. He understands why I am scared to part with my deepest reserves of self-reliance and all those protective shields. He understands why those shields and responses exist in me in the first place, much better than I do or ever will. He understands all these things, and he is patient. He is committed to waiting with me as my trust in him grows, is nurtured, and blooms. He is committed to me until the day I can hand him my whole heart.