In 1987 I left for California with a close friend, a few bucks and a simple plan. We traveled from Jacksonville (my home) to San Diego by way of Winnipeg (the extended route). Gone for months with little contact, we lived out of vending machines and an orange VW bus with a rusty floor and rotting orange curtains. We’d be surfing the best breaks from Washington to Mexico, then set up life somewhere in between. With more than a few zigs along the way we had a bona fide adventure. But at twenty one, the further you get from home the closer it feels to your heart. Familiar things have louder voices that never stop calling for your quiet return. And a few months in, we gave in to making a stealthy homecoming, hoping to surprise our families.
The outside of my parent’s home was beautiful. I didn’t knock. The only sound came from the lid of a boiling pot bouncing around splashing the stovetop and foyer with balmy hints of dinner – mom’s dinner! I walked toward the kitchen and there she was. Both her and my kid sister showered me with the extra strength hugs that only a good surprise can muster. Lots of questions and stares – it was good to be home. No one knew when or if we’d be back, but there I was and my father would be home from work any minute – I could hardly wait. Thirty states under my belt, chest out and chin in the air, I sat down and waited for him to step through the door. This would be better than scoring that TD on the very last play of my little league career.
My heart leapt at the sound of the door pushing open. There he was. Dad walked right through and passed by his favorite chair on the way to the bedroom. Maybe he wanted to change clothes first. My eyes and posture followed him down the hall before easing slightly back. And my heart didn’t give up because maybe he didn’t see the kid sitting in his chair. Sometimes we overlook things we don’t expect. But he changed his clothes and walked right past me again heading for the kitchen. It was a silence that swept so hard against my youthful hope that it emptied me onto the floor. Two seconds and twenty years of second chances passed, and I left as quietly as I came. That moment was the culmination of two decades waiting for those words, waiting for that look…. you know what I’m talking about. It was the most painful silence of them all.
We have a good relationship now, but the journey was like one-arming my way through a thousand acres of tall corn. The next twenty years of seeking approval left me bruised by hundreds of “look-at-me” exploits. From dodging the police in Rome to bare knuckled rides on top of the car at deadly speeds, from nearly drowning in the Irish Sea to ignoring instructions and skydiving my own way, from gambling my family on businesses and big houses to being emptied on the floor once again, I never rested. I never listened. I never gave writing a chance.
I spent my life laboring to be found by my earthly father and laboring to resist being found by my heavenly father. But I blame the enemy not my dad, because in both cases my life was filled with passionate but unnecessary labor – and that‘s his gig, getting us to labor in vain while he steals our rest and derails the train of kingdom productivity.
But Not Overlooking
There are few things as wonderful as a good night’s rest. We consider it a precious commodity. But just a peek through the eyes of our adversary helps us see the powerful difference between “down time” and the rest that Jesus freely offers. If we carefully consider where the enemy assigns value, we can blow his cover by identifying the currency of spiritual warfare. Jesus reveals this as “REST” from the rough terrain of the passage below.
Luke 11:24-28 When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”
Rest is so highly valued by the enemy that he will mobilize a small army to apprehend and recover it from his only source (us). He wants to steal what Jesus freely gives and will not be satisfied until he has it. An evil spirit isn’t looking to catch his breath any more than God needed a breather on day seven. His rest is realized the moment he employs us to do the enemy’s work FOR him. And he leaves no footprints because unlike the Lord who carries us, he disguises himself as the authority and showers us with approval when we obediently carry him – instead. We’ll either rest in the authority of Jesus (obedience) or labor against it on behalf of the enemy (disobedience). Oh how we love the site of our own footprints – looks like we’re really getting somewhere.
The Concert of False Productivity
The story of Mary and Martha beautifully reveals how subtly the enemy conducts this orchestra. He attempts to lure us with notes of earned approval from instruments of assumption. Consider how the passage uncovers him as maestro conducting from beneath the stage at Martha’s expense.
Luke 10: 39-42 “…Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to him talk. But Martha was upset about all the work she had to do.…Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work all by myself? Tell her to help me.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha! You worry and fuss about a lot of things. There’s only one thing you need. Mary has made the right choice, and that one thing will not be taken away from her.”
Horns / Strings / Bass / Percussion
Martha prepares a meal Jesus never asked for (forget tradition)
Martha does not listen as He teaches
Martha associates her labor with obedience and Mary’s resting as disobedience
Martha views herself as obedient which justifies (in her mind) making demands of Jesus
Martha worked diligently toward what she thought would be a fine finish, one she could look back on with a deep sigh and be proud of her own footprints. But Mary became still and rested upon the voice of the Lord to prepare for the work ahead (she left no footprints). Yes, Martha is passionate about serving with her gift of hospitality. But our gift is not our God, Jesus is! And we have to begin at His feet. Then He will lead us in a productive use of that gift.
If you consider yourself a Martha (unless that is your name) it’s time to stop. If you locked your keys in the house, you wouldn’t break in through a window to get them, crawl back out the window with those keys to go unlock the door and walk in the proper way…would you? I’m guessing you might just break in the window and rest easy. Mary’s decision magnifies Jesus but Martha’s actions magnify Martha (for how much she is doing).
If you’re wavering at all think of it this way: Martha worked FOR her Sabbath, Mary prepared for work FROM her worship. Under the law we worked for rest, under grace we work from rest. Working toward the seventh day to rest is not the same as worshiping on the first day to prepare for the week and work ahead. Martha represents the law and Mary represents grace – you decide – But let’s resolve to sit at His feet so our days on earth will be productive!
The Resolution of Rest (why resolutions DO matter)
Just as God’s mercies are new every morning and repentance is a lifelong practice, God designed us to live with an ongoing commitment to follow Him that we may become like Him. Without a resolution to meditate on the word daily (the actual word) this will not happen. Without the word our quiet time with Jesus is dangerously reduced to that of handing a post it note to an assistant. The God who never sleeps and knows the number hairs on our head watches over us as a father admiring his sleeping child. He waits for us while we sleep, to wake up and spend time with Him. But with only minutes to spare and a teen-like half smile we head past Him on the way to the hot shower, clean clothes and coffee. Then wonder aloud if we still have a copy of Jesus Calling in our desk drawer at work. That should work – right? Hrmmm, hope He likes post-its.
Prayer from the Lord’s feet
Lord, remind me again about the Word that was made flesh…Its breadth and dimension are unrestrained by the flattened landscape of paper and ink. Its Jasper walls of everlasting truth cannot be overtaken by the temporary weeds that men call facts. No literary arrow dipped in the flames of contradiction can set fire to this living water or breach the iron gates of its context. Not even the giant void of black universe can block the radiance of one single verse “let there be light” from Pennsylvania to Mongolia. It’s a lamp to our feet that now stretches from Amish nightstands to the glowing cell phones of shepherds in the Gobi desert. O how the word is alive and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword. Yet we hold it captive locked in the scabbard by leaving it unread and marching on ahead. Help the reader’s heart to be convicted to a life of RESTING at your feet.
Beloved, all God wants is a willing heart and for us to cry out to Him to lead the way. Our only job is to get close enough to listen and follow. Spend your days at His feet, in His word. He will give you the rest.
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