Five Truths on Rest - Lessons from a Newborn

I haven’t had more than a six-hour stretch of sleep in almost five months (potentially longer with pregnancy’s frequent middle of the night bathroom breaks). The six-hour stretch has only happened twice that I can remember; mostly they come in three-hour increments.*

 

And with all the lack of shuteye, it’s quite like God to teach such a sleep-deprived mama about the deeper reality to which sleep points: rest.

 

                                                                       (the cute reason for my current lack of sleep)

                                                                       (the cute reason for my current lack of sleep)

 

 

 

Being a mom changes a person in ways she never could have expected. Whereas once I had the (gracious) ability to hit the pillow and be asleep within five minutes, I find it much more difficult to go to sleep these days. Something about functioning as a sustainer of a small human being has done this to me.

 

Ironically, I find myself ready to go to sleep around 8pm (though I’ve always been considered a bit of a grandma when it comes to bedtime, it was never this early!). And sleep I may need, but without rest, sleep has no power to restore the soul.

 

 

                                                                                    love this little wide-eyed girl

                                                                                    love this little wide-eyed girl

 

In this season of new motherhood, God has graciously shown me a bit more about rest, both through relationship with my daughter and through His gentle exposing of my heart.

When I use the term rest, I use it as a concept much bigger than the physical act of sleeping. Though I believe sleep to be a part of this, Biblically, rest involves both the body and the heart.

So whether you're a new mom or not, I pray the Lord would use something here to make His invitation to rest in your current season of life deeply appealing.

 

1. Rest requires humility.

When we lie down, whether we consciously acknowledge this or not (and it would be better if we did), we are enacting this truth: we are not God.

As I lay down for a nap the other day (a nap in and of itself is an act of humility for me; I can count on one hand the number of naps I took before Harper was born), God seemed as if He were pressing this truth deeper in me. The very fact of lying prostrate signals to us our finiteness. The world marches on without us, not waiting until we open our eyes to continue its agenda.

With high-tech monitors, ample online reading material, and the luxury of highly involved, ultra-caring, tell-all babysitters (read: grandmothers), the idea that we can be all-knowing doesn't seem all that impossible.

Many a time, my desire to know comes cloaked in good intentions. I want to know how best to shepherd my baby. I want to know what makes her upset and what helps her express herself. I want to know how her time was spent when I was away, and I want to know all the potential ways I can help her when things get challenging.

I believe all of these things are good and full of grace from the Lord that I care and am concerned for my baby's well-being. But when I find it impossible to fall asleep or be away because I need to know the status of my baby, I have fallen prey to the temptation that rest is found in omniscience.

 

And because I am not God, omniscience (the quality of being all-knowing) will always be out of reach.

 

Jesus invites us to come to Him for rest, to take His yoke upon us. This yoking is an act of submission, an act of casting off our resistance to authority and humbly being led by the gentle King. Humility reminds me that only God is and can be acquainted with all her ways (Psalm 139) and that ultimately because He is, she is in much better care than I could ever provide with all the knowledge I could acquire.

 

(super thankful for Hannah Anderson's book, Humble Roots)

                                                                                       morning stretches :)

                                                                                       morning stretches :)

 

2. Rest calls for an active faith.

It’s hard to separate the two. Humility enacts faith, and faith feeds humility; they are never fully expressed without the other.

But even with that caveat, I will make a small nuance of what the Lord has shown me in this season about how rest requires active faith.

The spectrum is wide with temptation:

On one end, anxiety rules us, and the only way we can silence the never-ending thoughts of our minds is to chase its agenda, block it out, or check out with whatever we believe will bring us rest.

And on the other, the idea of a nap hovers in our minds with visions of how much better we'd be if only we could get that nap, because after all we deserve it for all our middle of the night faithfulness (see what I mean about not being able to get away from humility).

But rather than live at the extremes of "I can't rest at all" or "I love rest too much," faith calls us to the middle ground. To rest is to actively bring our cares and concerns to the altar of God, to repent of trying to be Him, and to grow more in intimacy with Him and in awe of His character. To rest is to seek wisdom, not fixes. To rest is to desire God-ordained good, not perfection. To rest is to become poor in spirit, to ask for help, strength, and bread to sustain us for this day, and to trust that His power brings life when we lay ours down.

 

3. Rest is a gift. 

And still, most of us know this scenario all too well. We lie down to sleep, feeling it a desperate need with all the lack of it, and thirty minutes, forty-five, an hour later, we have found sleep to be elusive and the back of our eyelids a closer friend than before.

 

The ache of restlessness tells us that sleep is not the water that will satisfy our thirsty souls.

 

Rest that cures the ache of restlessness comes from the rest-Giver. Rest is an invitation to be received. And if one is to receive rest, she must rid herself of what hinders receiving: a subtle pride. So the first two points connect deeply to this one and when rest feels distant, I must repent and return to the One who tells me to come.

 

                   pictures with her eyes closed are few and far between - even as a newborn! she loves to be awake :)

                   pictures with her eyes closed are few and far between - even as a newborn! she loves to be awake :)

 

4. Rest is something to be cultivated. 

I’ve had the privilege of shepherding several women in engaging the concept of Biblical rest and how it changes the way we live as a whole. (I loved learning about Sabbath from a doctor who when faced with the problem of evil, read all the major sacred texts of the world, including the Bible, and became a Christian over the age of 40. Check out his ministry here.)

In our sin nature, we resist the rest we were made for. We look for counterfeits in the form of escape, indulgence, and the pursuit of ways to preserve our life (in the way that Biblically is not commended, as opposed to losing our life/laying it down).

So if something doesn't come naturally to us, baby steps are in order. As Harper progresses from lying still to moving her limbs to rolling on her side to…well you get the idea. No growth happens overnight; it happens little by little. Learning to rest well is a process, and it's a process so that we don't miss the joy of knowing Jesus, the Securer of our Sabbath rest, in the midst of it.

Babies love routine (so I read:)), and thankfully, I do, too. As I establish rhythms of play, learning, engaging/interacting, I also work to create rhythms that soothe, cleanse, and quiet. These rhythms prepare her to rest well and rest better than the times we stay out too long, leaving her overstimulated and in full on tears on the way to nap time. In both cases she needs rest, and both scenarios are a part of life (that's why my last point can't be overstated), but rest prepared for and intentionally cultivated typically makes a deeper impact than trying to operate as an on/off switch.

 

5. Rest is a desperate need for the state of the heart.

Few realities of God have comforted me more in this season of motherhood and all of its newness than these:

 

I know, and I am with you.

 

More than any other season in my life, I realize how out of control I am. Though I can follow a book, make wise decisions, and genuinely try to do what is best for my daughter, I simply cannot control what happens in her life. Early on, I found myself fretting after every nap with this question, "Why is she waking up early?" For a while, I gave myself over to this concern, but at some point in my quest, God graciously gave me pause. He gently pressed me with this truth: "What if you considered that I know when she lies down and when she wakes? That I ordain those times for her good and your sanctification?" Humbled, my heart repented of seeking to find rest in a controlled environment and set of circumstances.

 

And my heart must repent time and time again when things get beyond my façade of control.

 

When my dog tries to open the door with his head where she's sleeping in search of his ball.

When my husband wants to go out to eat after church.

When moments of ministry require additional sacrifice and extend longer than I anticipated.

 

When I feel myself growing tense, it's here that God is teaching me more about rest of the heart. I have the option to sin against Him with frustration, despair, anxiety, or bitterness. I can pretend to let go of my plans when inside I'm recounting the ways things could have gone better. I can pretend to be fine when things turn out to be harder that day, likely due to the changes, but inside I'm full of pride, blaming another for "messing up" the ideal day.

Or I have the opportunity to receive the King's invitation to surrender and allow God to be God in that place.

I have the opportunity to release my grip on what I think will bring peace and comfort and humbly choose to engage the circumstances He's ordained for me to receive more of His Kingship in my life and less of mine.

Because by taking matters into my own hands, the life and security that I deeply long for will always be beyond my grasp. But when the King reigns in my heart, rest becomes the state from which everything else flows.

 

So when my dog hits the door, I comfort my crying baby and trust that God knew this would happen and is with me now to supply me with the additional strength I need to press on.

And when my husband wants to eat out during "nap time," I surrender and let my husband lead, and I trust that God knows and stands ready to supply me with grace and patience when I humble myself before Him.

And when ministry requires more of my time and investment, I remember my King's sacrifice and patience, and I praise Him that I get to appreciate more of these qualities of His, and I plead for His eyes and heart so that I don't miss an opportunity to love well and make much of Him.

 

And when anything else "interrupts" my intended plans, I lift up my eyes and seek to discover more of the God who tells me these truths: I know and I am with you. For it's in living in these truths I remember who I am because of who He is, and my heart finds the grace it needs to rest.

And I believe the ribbon that ties them all together is grace.

As I calm her cries with a slow walk and gentle song, I think about how all these things work together through grace. Humility bids her to submit to my authority as I submit to His. Faith compels me to put my hope not in my wisdom-led, cultivating efforts to soothe her, but in God's will for this moment. So if He wills that she does rest, I respond with gratitude for this gift. And during it all, I surrender, receiving rest of heart - believing He knows and is with me - so that I don't miss an opportunity to hear His voice, receive His peace, comfort, and joy, and know Him more.

 

grace & peace,

Lauren

 

(*a lot of this content came in the throes of sleep training, and I am thrilled to report that I have since gotten my first 8 hour stretch of sleep!!! God is gracious!!)

 

when burdens + pain get heavy

“And it’s just so hard,” he said to me.

 

I had only known him for a week at this point, but he humbly opened up when I asked how he was doing. He shared his heart and the struggles therein. Not in a complaining sort of way, but in a weary, despairing, can you help me sort of way.

 

                         image by Joanna Sue Photography, view more of her beautiful images here

                         image by Joanna Sue Photography, view more of her beautiful images here

Heavy burdens always have a way of exposing our need. Though our preference is to walk through life handling everything that comes at us, finding a solution all our own, or trusting in our own measures, abilities, intelligence, or will-power, one thing keeps us from succeeding in our independent ways: we were created. And by very nature, we are dependent creatures.

 

In our sin nature, we oppose this reality, this truth that tells us we aren’t sufficient in and of ourselves. We fight it and we hide it. We’d rather not express our neediness, not unless it gets us something we want (i.e. pity, attention, affection, etc.). Even then, we expose what is true of us – that we aren’t the source. Our worshiping hearts crave what we think will give us life or joy or peace. We crave what only our Creator can supply.

 

Because what will give us life won't be found within ourselves.

 

Our need for dependence, when seen through the lens of Scripture, is actually a gift from our loving and good Creator. He intended that we’d never live apart from union and communion with Him. That we’d find fullness of joy, abundant life, and transcendent peace – in infinite measure – simply in relationship with our God, knowing and being known by Him.

 

But our sin separated us.

                                                          another beautiful image by Joanna

                                                          another beautiful image by Joanna

 

No longer does man look to God but to lesser loves, to the gods of our own making and fashioning, to our own selves, to the man or woman to our left or right, a created being, just like us. We think maybe they will be the one to tell us who we are, to save us, and to give us life.

 

And in the midst of our separation, in the midst of our running, we find ourselves in a wake of pain with burdens that are heavy.

 

In our quest for independence, we formulate ways to deal with our pain.

See if any of these look familiar:

 

·      Ignore and hide it.

·      Dwell in it to the point of depression.

·      Protect it, whether by lashing out, justifying it, or simply believing that no one could ever understand.

·      Treat it as if nothing is wrong.

·      Just get through it.

·      Medicate it with anything from drugs to Netflix to fantasies to work to perfectionism.

·      Get angry, grumble, complain, or despair.

·      Project it onto someone else.

·      Make sense of our lives based on the pain we’ve experienced.

·      Live in fear and anxiety.

 

 

 

And we pick up things to carry as we go.

 

We pick up identity statements:

I’m not worthy because I disgraced my family and myself.

I’m worthy because I’m good at this.

I’m not worthy because I don’t measure up here.

I’m worthy because I haven’t messed up.

I’m not worthy because I've been told I’m nothing or treated as nothing by another.

I’m worthy because I have received the praise of man.

 

We pick up our pain and carry it around, either bottled up, not to be touched or exposed and open to the world to contaminate.

 

We hold onto our experiences, whether good or bad, because they are the witnesses to the life that we have.

 

We bear our problems and we take on the problems around us.

 

We latch onto things we think will be our hope. We grip them with our worshiping hearts, and before we know it, idolatry turns to slavery, and the shackles grow heavier and heavier.

 

With no one to help or save us, we bear the weight of our circumstances, our families, our occupations, crippling under the demands that each require.

 

And maybe the heaviest burden of all, we attempt to lift and carry whatever will make us right with God. We desperately want to be acceptable, desirable, deserving, and worthy (whether we realize it or not), so we make sure to do all the right things until we live either with a stench of self-righteousness or in the pit of despair.

Because the burdens of religion can feel like crushing stones on our consciences.

 

Heavier and heavier, our pain and our burdens keep exposing our weaknesses, our neediness, our created-ness. And our hearts cry out in desperation for Another to come and give us rest.

 

                                image by our dear friend, Christine Farmer. Check out her work here.

                                image by our dear friend, Christine Farmer. Check out her work here.

 

Then, the most gentle, loving, humble, servant King comes to us.

 

He is speaking to us: the burden-bearers, the heavy-laden, the weary.

 

He wants something from us. We are surprised because He does not want our better efforts, our record of attempts at godliness, or even our explanation of how we’ve tried.

 

He wants our neediness. Our misplaced identity that breeds oppressive shackles of pride and shame. He wants our burdens we’ve tried to bear. Our pain we’ve unsuccessfully dealt with. Our confession and repentance of trusting in anywhere but in our Creator to give us life, hope, peace, joy, and rest.

 

Aaah, rest. The appeal is strong to the heavy-laden one. But this is not the best part of the invitation.

 

 

 

Come to Me.

 

This is the good news. The chasm of our separation has been overcome. Our ultimate pain has been carried to the Cross, and the Resurrection testifies that our temporal pain will one day end. Our burdens have been exchanged for light, and we have the opportunity to be yoked to our God once again.

 

When Jesus says, “Come to Me,” He is making clear to us that we won’t find life apart from Him. We won’t find rest, joy, or peace apart from Him.

 

No longer can we stay the same. Though our independence still allures us to deal with our pain on our own and carry burdens by ourselves, we’ve tasted the wine and milk and bread without price (Isaiah 55). We’ve savored rest that isn’t fleeting or earned. And we’ve gotten a glimpse of this beautiful King who, before uttering those precious words, “Come to Me,” humbles Himself to come to us.

 

And although we have trouble believing this goodness, this grace, this redeemed union with our God to be true, we know that nothing else can give us life.

 

So the invitation to come is to come as we are. Not hiding our pain or gripping tightly to our burdens. And in receiving the invitation to come, we surrender – over and over – our sinful preferences for independence.

We learn that the way to deal with our pain is the same way we enter in – to confess our neediness, to cry out for our Savior, and to walk in step with Him, yoked to the One who bears our heavy load and gives us His rest in exchange. We keep our hearts soft, though pain and suffering would tempt us to harden our hearts in self-protection or bitterness. We refuse these false refuges and in remaining sensitive, we receive His ministry to us - the One who came to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, to tell those who sit in darkness that their light has come. We express our poverty of spirit to Christ the Suffering Servant and thus cultivate intimacy with Him in this pain, Him who is acquainted with grief and a friend of sorrow.

 

We learn to surrender our burdens to the only One powerful, caring, and wise enough to carry them, and we learn to receive the rest that comes when He leads and we follow.

 

Vastly summarized, I mean neither of these to say that our pain instantly goes away or our burdens become any less obvious. They may linger in this life. But the invitation is here. The King has come. And He gives the kingdom to the poor in spirit. So let us press on to surrender and confess our neediness – the thing that is actually true of us. And let us confess it to the One who came to save us, to give us life in being united with Him once again.

For He came to transform our pain into joy and our burdens to glory.

 

Lent Video Week 5

Friends, only a few more weeks of Lent! We pray this video encourages you to press on in your fight against sin and in your greater enjoyment of God in your everyday moments that encompass this thing called life!

Let us know if you have any questions or feedback in the comments or email us at wordsworthnoting@gmail.com!

 

grace & peace,

Lauren

Lent Video Week 4 - When hard things come

Welcome to the end of week 4, Lenten friends. Can we just say, we are so grateful to be walking this road together with so many of you. The road to the cross is a hard and exposing one, and we are glad for the company.

Emily shares this week of the grace that is ours in the midst of the God-ordained hard in our lives. We pray you are deeply encouraged to press into Christ and receive His life and victory to sustain you and give you joy in your wilderness.

grace & peace,

Lauren

Lent Video Week 3

Welcome to the end of week 3 of Lent! We pray the Word is bringing light to your heart - both to reveal sin and to point to the life offered in Jesus and His victory over temptation. This week we studied part one of the second temptation, and I hope this explanation and exposure of my own run in with this temptation will help you as you work through it in your own life.

Because the road God calls us to walk will be filled with temptation. But praise the Lord, these roads are also filled with the opportunity to trust Him more deeply, know Him more personally, and experience Him more intimately if we walk them with surrendered hearts.

Pray this video is a blessing to you!

grace & peace,

Lauren