An Epilogue, of Sorts

Hello, friends.

It has been such a long while since I've written anything here. I never thought I would encounter the day when three weeks . . . then a month and a half . . . then two months . . . and now almost three months would pass without new words from me in this space. The journey to here has been twisty-turvy and surprising.

I guess I should begin by saying that I had every intention of finishing my series on learning to rest. Even from the time I began the series, I knew there were at least seven or eight installments that could be written at that point about this process for me, not to mention however many more pieces that would fall into place as I continued to walk this path.

The first few months of this year were filled with so many opportunities to lean deeper into the rest I was asking God to teach me to receive. Writing those first four installments that got me up to the point of my January residency in Philadelphia was only the beginning. I was really enjoying the process of chronicling the fullness of all this journey for you here.

But then things happened. Really surprising things.

The first thing that happened is that Kirk got a job. That happened right after I wrote my last post in mid-March. It happened very quickly and quite unexpectedly. One moment we were driving to the beach on a sunny Friday afternoon, enjoying the beauty of the day together, and the next moment he was on a phone call with a friend who wanted to meet for lunch on Monday to talk about working together in a relatively new department at Full Sail. Less than a week later, he was in salary negotiations for the new position. A little over a week after that, he showed up for his first day on the job.

This completely shell-shocked me, but in the best of ways. Really, it shell-shocked both of us. It was kind of like waking up in the middle of a very busy street, all kinds of new and bustling activity happening around you, then scratching your head in a wholly stupefied daze and saying to the person beside you, "How exactly did we end up here?" It happened just that fast and just that unexpectedly.

But it was a complete blessing. For one thing, Kirk was (and continues to be) in love with the opportunity. It gives him the chance to listen to people's stories and hear their dreams and ask them compelling questions while continuing to build the educational institution that has been a part of his personal and professional life for so long. The work is good, the people are like family, and the place feels so much like home.

For another thing, the whole situation humbled me like you wouldn't believe. You may remember that my first and second posts in the series on learning to rest described how utterly self-dependent I had realized myself to be about the future. I had for some reason imposed a heck of a lot of internal pressure on myself to unlock the mysterious puzzle about where God was ultimately taking us in this very unconventional life we lead together. I was crunching my mind on overtime to crack that particular code, and a lot of this season of learning to rest was about releasing the need to do that anymore. It was about coming to believe that God indeed is our heavenly Father, which means that he sees us, knows our needs, and will provide for each and every one of them.


That's pretty much what Kirk's new job had to teach me, and it totally rocked my world. You see, I had absolutely nothing to do with that opportunity coming along or dropping into his lap. I didn't touch it. All I did, if I did anything, was listen to Kirk process through the decision and ask him good questions about it along the way.

Yet here it was. Something he was thrilled to be given the chance to do. What's more, it was providing for exactly all of our needs at that exact moment in time.

And I had absolutely nothing to do with it. That's the part I couldn't quite shake. God wasn't dependent on my doing all the right things or figuring out all the right answers in order to bring the next good thing into our lives. He did what he wanted to do, and he brought Kirk into that mix, and he let me just sit back and watch. With my jaw hanging down to the ground.

I'm pretty sure it stoked God to do this for us: to bring us around the next bend in our journey, finally, after wondering for so long together what it would be and when it would happen. I'm also pretty sure it gave God no shortage of endless delight to watch my wholly dumbfounded reaction as I made the very obvious connections that were there to be made to my very personal journey into greater and greater rest.

So that's the first thing that happened after I wrote my last post. It kind of distracted me for a while from writing anything here. I was pretty full on the inside just holding the weight of all God was communicating to me through that experience.

That he sees us. That he knows our needs. That he will provide for each and every one of them. That he's a whole heck of a lot more creative than I ever could be. That when he wants something to happen, he sets it in motion and it just flows.

Message received. Thank you, Jesus. I believe you now.

The next thing that happened was yet another marvel, and it was this: I started living completely in the present. For several weeks in a row, I found myself content to be concerned only with what was right in front of me to do. When I reached the end of a task, I was happy to simply ask myself, "What is the next right thing for me to do now?"

These were simple tasks. Things like washing the dishes in the sink. Pulling a load of laundry out of the dryer and folding the clothes in the bedroom. Paying the bills. Running to the post office. Calling the credit card company. Shopping for groceries at Costco and Publix. Working on an assignment for school.

Many of these tasks (especially grocery shopping!) were things I used to hate doing and would put off doing as long as possible. They were things Kirk would often do for the both of us, if I'm to be completely honest. Except now he was working 50 to 60 hours a week to get up to speed on his new job. Clearly, he wouldn't be paying the bills or shopping for us when he got home from those long days. It was up to me to do it now.

And I found myself really enjoying it. I loved the simplicity of all these specific tasks. I loved the feeling of contributing to our household and making Kirk's life that much easier. I loved moving from one thing to another in the quietness of our little home.

What's interesting to me about this is how little I thought of blogging. Every rare once in a while, I would remember I have a blog. I would remember it like I was peering, or straining, through a foggy mist to see that blog in the back reaches of my memory. And I would remember that I'd been in the middle of writing a series that seemed to culminate in the life I now found myself living: a life of peace, of simple joy, of resting contentedly and wholeheartedly in the present, without worry and without fear.

The thought of completing the series felt like forcing myself to go backward, to stuff myself back into shoes that were too small after a giant growth spurt. I had left off the series with events that had happened in January. And here it was: April. So much had occurred in the space of that time, even before Kirk got wind of the new job, to teach me lessons about learning to rest. Connecting the dots with all the stories that had happened between January and April to prepare me to receive the rest I had finally found felt overwhelming and somewhat stifling. It would force me to focus on the past instead of living completely in the present, which is what I most wanted to enjoy doing after the long road it took to get me here.

So that's what kept me from this space for quite so long. There's more to this story and more to where I'm heading from here, but I'm going to share those thoughts in a separate post. For now, know that I have indeed found the rest I was so longing and praying to find. Though it makes me sad to think of all the stories making up that journey that will never get told in this space after all, I'm contenting myself to hold all those untold stories close to my heart, known by me and Jesus, believing that the not-telling of them does not make them any less real or a part of who I am today.

Learning to Rest: Part 4

That night, after the prayer service, a group of my cohort friends and I decided to take a trip to the mini-mart. I, for one, was utterly famished and found myself practically salivating at the mere mention of chocolate chip cookies. So we crowded into one friend's car, cranked the U2 music as high as we could handle it, and headed down to the only establishment open close to midnight in that quiet little town where our retreat center was located.

We decided to each purchase something worth sharing with the rest of the group, and once we made it back to the retreat center, we laid claim to one of the main living areas, scooted several tables together, and then spread our booty of candy and chips along the tables to share.

I don't know that I have ever laughed or giggled that hard or that long in my life. We must have been sitting together for at least a good hour and a half, sharing and joking and telling stories. One friend had worked in a funeral home during one season of his life, and he regaled us -- completely straight-faced -- with stories about some of his most bizarre experiences. Soon people were quoting scenes from The Office. Then someone would pass around the bag of Sour Patch Kids or Doritos. Everything happening around that table of fellowship struck me as insanely silly and insanely good.

Periodically, I would catch myself giggling like a little girl, and I would be thrust back into the memory of that time of play Jesus and I had just shared during the prayer service earlier that night. That experience felt so connected to the purity of fun and laughter I was now sharing with my friends around that table. I felt so safe and so free. It felt like an invitation to more childlike play.

The next morning, I woke in my room about an hour before my alarm went off. I debated getting up or turning on the light to read in bed, but ultimately I decided to go back to sleep. As I cozied back under the covers, my mind returned to the healing experience I'd shared with Jesus the night before. I remembered how I had rested in his arms like an infant after we'd run and danced and played together. So in my bed right then, as I nestled deeper into my pillow and pulled the blankets closer, I pictured myself in Jesus's arms once again, allowing him to hold me as I fell back to sleep.

That last hour of sleep was the deepest I'd had the whole night. I woke feeling incredibly rested and warm and safe and loved. I am not sure I have ever experienced sleep that deep and restful in my entire life. All because I'd let Jesus hold me for that last hour of sleep.

This whole experience fell smack-dab in the middle of the week. Up to that point in the week, my hidden extrovert had come out of hiding and was living on full alert. Whereas I would normally have been heading to bed at a decent hour at a planned retreat, I was finding myself choosing to stay up until one-o-clock in the morning to talk and share and laugh with my friends. Whereas I would normally have used any scheduled free time for a nap, a solitary walk, or a chance to read and journal by myself, I found myself choosing instead to be with others, to go exploring with a group, to linger over the lunchtime meal because we were enthralled in a good conversation.

In other words, I hadn't connected much to my highly introverted nature up to that point in the week.

But that all changed after that healing prayer service, after that night of giggling hard with friends, after that last hour of deep, restful sleep the next morning. As I walked into the first morning session that next day, I found my body moving more slowly and engaging with others less quickly. There was a serenity and lightness to my heart -- a heart that was now captivated by play and laughter and freedom with Jesus -- but there was also an incredible feeling of exhaustion creeping over the rest of my being. I found my brain shutting down about halfway through the sessions. I took more time for myself during the free hours and went to bed much earlier. I felt stripped and in need of naps. I didn't have much to give anymore.

Slowly, I came to realize that I was experiencing something that felt like a deep soul slumber. Who knows how long that hardened piece of my heart that Jesus took from me that night had been in effect in my life, operating as though everything depended on its efforts and alertness, operating as though it was the only living savior around. But however long it was, I know it was a really, really long time. So much so that I don't think it had any concept of rest or play in its experience of my life at all.

These gifts of rest and play, then -- these gifts that then led to its continually deep soul slumber -- were completely new and completely, utterly needed.

Learning to Rest: Part 3

About a week and a half into the new year, I traveled to Philadelphia for a week-long residency with my classmates from Spring Arbor and six other cohort groups enrolled in our spiritual formation program. We were there to learn about social justice from Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne, and we were provided intentional time to connect in our cohort groups about the work God has been doing in each of our lives.

During the cohort sharing time, we were asked to individually share our responses to two questions: "What has God been doing in my life since last we met?" and "What hasn't God been doing?"

Wow. Those two questions pack a lot of punch, and it was beautiful to hear each person in our cohort community share their diverse, heartfelt responses to how these questions meet them in their lives right now. And then it was precious to gather around each person after they shared so we could spend time praying for the concerns and questions and praises they had voiced. In all, it was a time of vulnerability, tears, intense listening, intense caring, and holy lifting up.

Since our cohort group has 21 members, it took several installments of several hours each for us to provide this sharing and prayer time for each person. I was next-to-last in line, which means that my sharing time landed in the middle of the week, just before we were scheduled for an evening lecture in the main meeting room.

I told my group about the invitation to practice active rest with God this year, allowing him to teach me what it means for him to be my heavenly Father who sees me, knows my needs, and will provide for them as I release my grip on the future and simply watch, wait, and learn to receive. I shared that this felt scary and that I didn't really know yet how to trust that God would show up. And when it came to sharing what God isn't doing right now, I wryly joked that God is not providing me with a job. It's hard to wait and trust that all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

After the group gathered around and prayed for me, we headed downstairs for the main session. Along the way, my friend Seth came up to me and asked if he could talk with me later. "When you were sharing," he said, "I felt like God gave me something specific to share with you, but I didn't want to share it in the larger group." Intrigued, I agreed to talk with him a little later about it.

That night during the main session, the director of our program talked about the role social justice has played within the charismatic tradition of our faith. He talked about prophecy and about healing, about spirit baptism and about spiritual warfare, linking each of these to the work of the Holy Spirit on behalf of social justice in the world. And then, after learning about the history and tenets of the charismatic tradition, we were invited to participate in a charismatic-style worship service.

We pushed all the tables and chairs off to the side of the room, creating an open space that would allow people to stand, sit, kneel, lay down, or even dance. We were told that we would be provided an opportunity for prayer later in the evening so that people could receive healing and the reception of their gifts and ministry if they wanted to be prayed over.

Since I have been so focused these days on receiving the work God has for me to do, I had every intention of going up to receive prayer for the reception of my ministry. But all of that changed once Seth came over to talk with me.

It was about halfway through the worship service, and I had moved from kneeling on the floor to sitting in a chair on the side of the room. Since I was now somewhat detached and no longer singing, Seth came over and asked if he could share with me what he felt God impressing upon him earlier that night. I nodded.

He sat down beside me and said, "I feel like God wants you to know that he's inviting you to play."

I looked at Seth and arched my eyebrows, not sure what to make of this.

He continued. "I'm serious. It's like God wants you to come up and sit on his lap, and he wants to cuddle with you, and tickle you, and laugh with you, and run around with you, and chase you. He's inviting you to play with him."

And then, without him having any knowledge of the image I've been carrying around about clutching the hardened pinecone at the core of my heart, he said, "I just feel like you're clutching something in your fist. Like you're holding on to it really hard and can't let it go."

My eyes widened, and I sat there, dumbfounded. How could he possibly have known?

"You're right," I said slowly. "Just before I came up here, God was showing me that there's this last little sliver of my heart -- almost like the last remaining 25 percent of it -- that has never been given over to him. And it's so frustrating because the other 75 percent has learned to trust him and receive healing. But this last 25 percent has never done any of that. It feels exactly like I'm clutching it in my fist, and it feels like this hardened, dark pinecone digging into the palms of my hands."

Seth nodded and listened, and then, with his eyes fixed on me, he said, "Christianne, you can receive healing for that."

"I know," I said. "I believe God is trying to heal me of it. That's what this season of active rest and learning to let him be my heavenly Father is all about."

"Right," he said. "But I mean tonight. You can receive healing from that tonight."

I looked at him skeptically. "I don't know, Seth. God has healed me in many different ways over the years, but my experience is that it always takes a really long time and a lot of intentionality on my part. I'm not sure I believe it can happen immediately, in a moment."

"Well, sometimes it doesn't," he agreed. "And God may choose not to heal you tonight. But he also could do it, if he wanted to. And maybe you could just start by asking him. I would really encourage you to go up for the healing prayer when the prayer time starts."

Seth has been involved in healing ministries for a while, so I trusted that he spoke from experience about God's ability to heal in an instant. But still . . . I didn't know what to make of all this. Like I said, the work of healing is something I've experienced, but it has always taken whole seasons of life and intentionality to enter into and receive it. It has always been something God and I work through together, sometimes with the help of friends or the help of a therapist. I didn't know if I believed God could really heal me in an instant.

I sat in my chair and took all this in, and all these thoughts and questions kept racing through my mind. I kept trying to reconcile, too, what he had shared about God inviting me to play. What did that mean? Why was it important? Why did it even matter?

And then suddenly, I was weeping. Deep, wracking sobs seemed to well up from the depths of my body. Tears began streaming down my face. My shoulders shook from all those heavy tears. And I felt so embarrassed to be crying like this, out in the open surrounded by classmates I'd just met in person for the first time a few days ago, plus a whole bunch of other people I didn't know at all.

For a long time, the tears just kept flowing and I didn't really know why. It felt like a grief that had been a long time coming, so I just let it come. And then, slowly, I began to see an image of myself in my mind. I was about four years old, and I was sitting on a chair in the middle of my living room. Activity swirled around me in the house, but I sat alone in the room.

Except that I wasn't alone. I saw Jesus with me in that room, right next to me as I sat in the chair. And I realized that this was somehow connected to the presence of Jesus I've always known.

My conversion story has always been a little awkward for me to tell because it has always been the case that I have had an awareness of Jesus with me in my life. From my earliest memories, Jesus has been there. I had never asked him to be there; he was just there. And I've never known what to make of that.

And yet here, in the midst of my tears, God was showing me that the presence of Jesus being with me from my earliest memories has been intentional. In all the ways I have ever felt alone in my life, I really wasn't ever alone. Jesus was always with me, because he knew I would need him to be.

This revelation that helped me understand something I'd never understood made me cry even more out of gratitude and wonder. And somewhere in the midst of these tears, I felt someone place their hand on my head, as though they were praying for me. They left a few moments later. As I continued to cry, my eyes closed and myself completely oblivious to the worship service going on around me, another person came up behind me and began to squeeze my shoulders, massaging the tension that must have been evident as I was hunched over in my chair. Slowly, I felt my neck and shoulders relax. This stranger, too, then moved away.

The tears began to subside, and I opened my eyes and sat quietly. They were beginning the prayer time at the front of the room, calling up those who wanted to receive prayer for their gifts and ministry. It was now clear to me that healing prayer -- not this prayer for ministry -- was what I needed to receive, and I felt willing to ask for it.

But how does healing happen, I wondered. How do I let God do it? How do I let myself receive it? My brain kept crunching these questions over and over, trying to open myself to receive healing but not knowing how to make sense of how it happened at all. Having some mental understanding of what I needed to invite and assent to seemed important. I mean, how could I receive healing if I didn't know how to let it happen?

With these mental gymnastics playing over and over in my head, I moved to the front of the room once the invitation came. Our director, Ken, approached me with a small bottle of anointing oil in his hand and asked how he could pray for me. But I didn't know how to tell him what I needed. "I'm holding on to something, and I don't know how to let it go," was all I could say. I shrugged my shoulders and looked at him, probably with no small amount of tears and desperation shining in my eyes.

Ken made the sign of the cross with oil on my forehead and prayed for me. Then he moved away to pray over another person and I found myself standing in that spot at the front of the room by myself. I felt self-conscious, and again I found my brain working its mental gymnastics on how to let this healing thing happen. I could feel myself getting nowhere, and I felt completely helpless and frustrated with the whole thing. I couldn't help wondering if all of this was just a little ridiculous.

After a few minutes, one of the prayer volunteers came up to me. He introduced himself as Austin and asked how he could pray for me. "I don't know," I told him. "There's this part of my heart that I'm holding on to, and I need to let it go. I need to give it to God, but I don't know how. I don't know how to let healing happen. I don't understand how it works."

Austin nodded and looked at me quietly. "Do you think you could name it? If you could give a word or two to what you're holding on to, what do you think it would it be?"

I just stood there, not saying anything. I didn't know. I shook my head in utter helplessness and looked back at him without saying anything.

He looked at me intently for a few moments, as though listening to the words I wasn't saying and listening to the spirit of God at the same time. "It feels to me like it might be a great loneliness," he said. "But I don't want to name it for you. Do you think you could give it a name?"

To the best of my ability and knowledge, all I could say was, "Trying to make life happen. I would name it, 'Trying to make my life happen.'"

Austin asked if he could pray for me, and his prayer took on a similar theme to what Seth had said to me earlier: that God wanted to play with me, that he wanted me to know how much he delights in me, that he wants me to be like a child with him, running around and being chased. I found myself wondering how he could possibly know what he was praying, how it was possible for his words to mirror Seth's so closely when he hadn't been there for our conversation.

After Austin prayed, we both stood there together. Neither of us said anything for a moment. Finally, I said, "I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to give this over to God so he can heal me. It just doesn't make sense to my mind. I feel like I need to understand how it happens in order to let it happen."

As I was talking, Seth came up and stood on the other side of me, placing his hand on my shoulder and praying for me quietly. Austin nodded at what I had said and then continued to stand there with me, as though listening. After a moment, he said, "I'll tell you what. Why don't we both stand here together quietly and see if God speaks to either one of us about this. And then, if either one of us hears him speak, we can tell the other person what he said. Does that sound okay?"

I nodded. We closed our eyes.

And then I saw him.

In my mind, I saw Jesus standing before me. He was smiling and laughing and beckoning me forward to run and frolic and play. His eyes twinkled. And he just kept laughing and inviting me forward, as though playing with me was the best thing he could imagine doing right in that moment.

So I did it. I imagined that four-year-old me that had been sitting in the living room chair entering into the scene with him and letting him chase me. I laughed and shrieked with joy. I let him catch and tickle me. I was having so much fun! And I could feel, as Seth and Austin prayed beside me, that a huge smile was beginning to spread across my face. It felt like it would be totally stuck there forever.

I stood there for a long time, allowing myself to bask in the moment, just watching myself play with Jesus in that image in my mind. And then, as I continued watching, I saw myself crawl up into his arms and rest. Jesus held me in his arms, my four-year-old self laying in his arms like an infant, fastly falling asleep.

A deep sense of rest came over my body, and I felt like I had no muscles at all. It felt like Seth was holding me up, keeping me from falling backward with his hand lightly touching my shoulder as he prayed. I could tell it was happening. The healing was happening. This is what healing felt like.

Soon Seth and Austin walked away, as though they knew I was with Jesus, just resting, just being with him, no longer needing them beside me in prayer, totally content to be with Jesus for a while.

I had the sense of a group of people standing behind me, a band of four or five of them, praying for me. My friend Annie came up and sang a beautiful worship chorus with her hand resting lightly on my shoulder. Her voice sounded like angel's wings in my ears. And then, with Seth's words to me from the beginning, and Ken's anointing oil and prayer, and Austin's inviting me deeper into all of it, and nameless strangers coming to touch my head and massage my shoulders while I cried, and a group of them standing in a circle of prayer behind me, and Annie's beautiful singing, I was struck with the greatest sense of being held up and supported by the literal body of Christ that I have ever known.

And in the midst of it, Jesus. Jesus holding me in his arms.

I'm not sure at what point it happened, but I slowly came to realize that it was gone. The hardened pinecone that was the core of my heart, the dark pit I had been clutching in my fist and didn't know how to let go of, was gone. Somewhere in the midst of all that playing, he had taken it from my hand, like a parent distracts a child to some other kind of activity so they forget what they'd been holding and the parent can pick it up after they've abandoned it.

I hadn't had to do anything to consciously offer it over. I hadn't had to understand how it would happen, or even when it would happen. He had done it all. He had taken it from me completely, and all that I did was play.

Learning to Rest: Part 2

On Christmas morning, Kirk gave me a small, two-sided card on which he’d written several questions. These questions were to be held in prayer by both of us for the duration of the week in preparation for the upcoming year. The idea was to pray separately over these questions for a week and then, when we went to dinner on New Year’s Eve, to break the silence of prayer and share what we discerned God was speaking.

The first question on the card asked of God, "What are you trying to free me from?" It didn't take long for me to sit with this question and discover its conclusion. Given the events of late, it seemed quite clear that God was wanting to free me from the iron grip with which I held the final remnants of my heart. This is the part of my heart that had been pushing itself along as though God did not exist. It was the vigilant sentry, a merciless machine, an isolated, sad, and lonely island.

And yet I'd seen Jesus inviting me closer. He had held out his hand toward my self-sufficiency, as though he wanted me to give it over to him. He seemed to want me to trust that this interior, desolate machine that is my greatest and last attempt at my own salvation could be entrusted entirely into his hands.

But could it be? This part of me didn't know the first thing about trusting anything or anyone other than the efforts of its own highly capable self. It was, quite honestly, a functional atheist.

I turned to the second question on the card: "How do you want me to live?"

At this point I began to see that it was perhaps providential that I'd just spent the past eight weeks learning about the spiritual disciplines for a class at Spring Arbor. In that class, I had learned firsthand about the principle of indirection. This principle states that we cannot, in our own power, make ourselves into the kind of people God wants us to be. In the face of that truth, we commit to little practices that are within our capacity so that God, along the way, can cultivate in us the character and fruits we cannot produce ourselves. We commit to what we can do so that God can grow in us what we cannot do. We do it together: his part, and our part.

I began to wonder how the principle of indirection could apply to this situation. If God wants to grow my trust in him in this deepest of interior places, how could I participate in its coming about? What kind of practices could make room for that trust to grow?

I looked out over the coming year of 2009 and, even in that moment, felt how immediately this part of my heart springs into action upon considering it. It channels all sorts of energy and worry toward answering the question of provision. It conjures up ideas for how that provision could happen. It wonders how people answering a vocational call to ministry go about finding jobs. It considers building a new resume. It speeds along channels concerned with connections, contacts, and networks. And it gets exhausted very quickly, even though it helplessly believes this is the only way it can survive.

But maybe there was another way. Just maybe.

That week I had been reading and re-reading the section in Matthew 6 that talks about worry. During one of those readings, I noticed a little sentence embedded in Jesus's sermon that I'd never paid much attention to before:

"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? . . . Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' . . . For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." (Matthew 6:25-33)

All throughout Matthew 6, Jesus keeps emphasizing our relationship with our heavenly Father. He talks about "your Father in heaven who sees you" (vv. 4, 6, 18) and says that "your Father knows the things you have need of" (vv. 8). He talks about how our Father in heaven feeds the birds of the air who don't put an ounce of energy into planting and harvesting the food they eat, and how God clothes the lilies of the field in majestic splendor, even though they are but mere flowers. And here, in the section of Matthew 6 that so carefully speaks to the very same worries of provision for physical needs that are the voice of my own heart in apprehending the future, Jesus says that my heavenly Father knows that I have need of all these things.

What does it mean for me to believe I have a heavenly Father who sees me, knows my needs, and will provide for them? What does it mean for me to allow him to be a heavenly Father who actually provides for those needs, in the same way he provides for the sparrows and the lilies without their lifting a toiling finger or worrying one single day? What does it look like for me to be a child, carefree about how the needs are met but content to simply receive with delight the gifts provided each day, trusting each day that those gifts and provisions will be there? What does it mean not to worry?

In considering the question "How do you want me to live?" and the principle of indirection, I began to ask God if 2009 is meant to be a year of practicing active rest, a year of willfully choosing not to spend time or energy figuring out the possibilities and details of my future life, spending that time and energy instead on attending to Jesus and loving others. I wondered if this is perhaps a year of attending to God's activity in my life, watching and waiting for him to bring his good gifts to me and learning to receive and respond to them when they come. Perhaps by actively watching for what God brings each day, my trust in the reality of him as my heavenly Father will grow.

This seemed like a big step to take: turning aside from a way of existing that was like second nature to me in order to trust an invisible God to provide for an invisible future. Was I crazy? I asked God for his Holy Spirit to confirm this path of active rest.

That's when all sorts of crazy things happened within one 24-hour period.

Later that same day, someone shared with me an image they had of me sitting in a meadow surrounded by butterflies. When I asked what those butterflies were doing, she related the idea of a butterfly coming to rest on somebody's shoulder. The person was sitting in stillness, and the butterfly came to them. Interesting.

Then my self-sufficient boy cat who is never interested in cuddling or receiving my affection took an unusual interest. He sat and stared as I worked on my computer and then jumped into my lap and wouldn't budge. He nestled his head into my arm and fell asleep. For seemingly no reason at all, this masculine cat that never cuddles decided to rest, unbidden, on my lap. Weird.

I happened that same night on a poem about butterflies. It spoke of butterflies eluding us when pursued but coming to alight quietly on our shoulders once we are still. Curiouser and curiouser.

And then, as a final bang, I had a dream that an invitation for guest-blogging showed up, completely out of the blue, in my e-mail inbox. I woke up and knew that all these things were God's ways of speaking to me. He was asking me to sit still, to choose not to make my own life happen this year, and to see what shows up, completely apart from my own making, as gifts he brings to me. He wants me to rest in such a way that allows him to demonstrate the faithfulness of his fathering of me.

I felt scared to make this commitment. The part of me that depends entirely on its own ability was completely and totally freaked out by it. But that is because it has known no other way. And this is where another passage I had been reading that week became incredibly comforting and incredibly instructive:

"I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them." (Isaiah 42:16)

The first few times I read this passage, I connected so much with the parts that spoke of blindness, of darkness, of a path unknown and places that are rough. The part of my heart to which this year is dedicated needs to unlearn self-sufficiency and, at the prospect of such unlearning, feels all these things acutely: blind, in the dark, on a road it does not know, and completely rough and unformed.

And yet as I continued to meditate on the passage through the week, I began to notice something else that completely blew my mind. I began to notice how many times God asserts himself as the agent of this journey along the new road, through the darkness into light, from rough ground into smoother levels. Over and over again, he says in this passage, "I will . . . I will . . . I will."

I could not avoid the truth that God would be the one leading me where I needed to go and bringing me out of the darkness I'd always known. It was just this kind of trust that I needed to cling to and learn to believe in, right that very moment.

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.