Life can be challenging sometimes. My friend Sarah has been going through a challenging time of late. In a recent meeting with a spiritual director to talk through what was going on and try to see how best to move forward, Sarah surprised herself by curling up on the sofa with a blanket. Toward the end, as they were summing up and Sarah was feeling heartened by a sense of greater clarity, the director asked her what God was saying to her. She surprised herself yet again by responding from someplace deep within: yes, all this is right and I’ll be in it with you, but first, a nap! Knowing Sarah as well as I know her, that was truly God’s wisdom coming through. She’s dedicated, passionate, talented, faithful and always goes the extra mile, so to hear that she was first to rest herself was truly an openness to the Holy One.
I love the biblical story about Elijah, the prophet who did just that. He gave everything he had and still things weren’t going well—the queen put a price on his head and he fled for his life—and you thought the bible was boring, didn’t you? Until he arrived at a cave, telling God to take his life already, for he was done. Instead, an angel—a celestial butler—cared for him, providing food, drink and restorative rest. God even gave him a glimpse of Godself before ultimately sending Elijah back into the fray to faithfully serve once more, but this time from a very different place.
How often do we pour ourselves out using our God-given gifts and pushing our limits, only to realize we’ve forgotten to make room for God within the realities of our situation? When do we push, even when what we most need is to be cared for. God gave us the Sabbath not to make us feel guilty when we don’t use it but because we all need time for rest and tender loving care. In allowing ourselves to receive it, which is not easy for most of us, we are actually in a ‘thin place’ and getting a glimpse of God. How often do you let God love you and care for you?
I think we get stuck thinking about God (or forgetting about God, as is so often the case for me!) rather than dwelling in God, opening our whole self—heart, mind, body, soul—to the One who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. We are invited to curl up in love, allowing love to saturate all that we experience—the good and the not-good alike—like a blanket wrapping around us bringing comfort and warmth and, ultimately, courage. My mentor and teacher, Jim Finley, reflects on ways to do that here and here, but at the heart he encourages us to ask: what is the most loving thing I can do for myself, the world, this person, this community? And then do that.
In any given moment, it may well mean a nap, but it could just as easily be going to a comedy club to laugh out loud as Jim and I did the other night. Perhaps it is a long phone conversation with someone you care about, or even better a chance to hang out in person. Sometimes it may be cooking and eating a wonderful meal or hiking in a beautiful setting. The possibilities are endless, all it takes is a little curiosity and a willingness to trust that God desires to nurture and care for you, wherever you are right now mentally, emotionally, physically and also cares for those around you and the whole of creation. We are invited to receive the love and allow it to flow in and through us before it goes flowing back out into the world.
What are ways you allow God to nurture, nourish and love you?
Hope to see you Sunday!