I'm in Goodwill looking for some bungee cords. You see, I'm making plans to get married this fall. My lease is up at my current place and I need a temporary place to stay. So I'm moving in with a buddy from church until the wedding day. And I need some bungee cords to secure the furniture I'm moving with another buddy's pickup truck.
I'm supposed to be looking for bungee cords and there are a zillion other little wedding-related details vying for my attention like day traders at the NYSE. Still, I take some time to wander the aisles a little.
In the DVD section I hit the jackpot, finding The Princess Bride and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. After that, I make my way to the menswear section. I've been in dire need of some new work pants to make room for my expanding waistline. My slowing metabolism, gravity, and a desk job have all conspired to make me a little softer in the middle. So I try on several pairs of pants and find four that fit.
There's something relaxing about taking time to browse. It feels almost like stepping out of time for a few minutes. It stills my mind and reminds me that the world isn't dependant on my ability to juggle the details of my frantic life.
My fiancée and I have been finding these moments of stillness together too. A Friday afternoon minor league baseball game here. A few episodes of The Office there. A trip to the pool here. A quiet conversation on her porch with mugs of coffee there. We're both working hard to prepare for a life commitment and the biggest party either of us has ever thrown. Without these still moments, it would be easy to lose sight of each other. And it would be easy to lose sight of the God who loves us and forms the third and central cord of our relationship.
God built the idea of stillness and rest into the very framework of his creation. He didn't rest on the seventh day because he was tired. He rested to give us an example. He knew that our tendency would be to pack every last moment with activity. He knew that we would be tempted to partition our days more and more until our lives are reduced to Instagram photos and tweetable moments. He knew that this would leave us exhausted and spent.
Psalm 103:13-14 says, "As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust" (ESV). In relation to God, we are as fragile and frail as the thin layer of dust that settles on a thrift-store coffee mug. We need to be reminded of that from time to time. More importantly, we need to learn to embrace his gifts of rest.
So God gives us sleep and the Sabbath and all the little "in-between" times of life when there's nothing to do but rest. He often gives us a sense of his presence in these quiet moments. He usually speaks in whispers and subtle impressions and between the lines of Bible verses, so that we'll have to be still and listen in order to hear. All these things flow from his compassion for us.
Yet, strangely, we squirm against these quiet graces designed to restore us. We look for the fastest line at the grocery store. We alternate depressants and stimulants to take control of our sleep. We treat all seven days of the week the same. We get impatient when we're not hearing from God immediately, and then take things into our own hands. And then we wonder why we feel so spent. Remember. We are dust.
Thankfully, God remembers. And he is patient and compassionate when we forget. Have you ever had one of those teachers who starts speaking really softly when the class gets too rambunctious? Often a hush will fall over the room, because there's an ominous calm like the silence before a particularly powerful storm. It reminds me of the way God came to Elijah in 1 Kings 19: not in the wind, earthquake, or fire, but in a low whisper so awe-inspiring that it made Elijah cover his face. God doesn't need to shout to express his power.