I spent a few days last week in the woods near Blairsville, Georgia, helping put up a fence. I was there with a group from my church on a mission trip. Sometimes mission trips are for others and sometimes they are for us. This one was for me.
Carrie and Nathan Dean live with their four children, ages twelve to two, in a three-room cabin in the North Georgia mountains. They are building a church/house where they will live and also use as a place to minister to those who may not feel comfortable in a traditional church setting. I wrote about the lessons I learned about being a follower when I helped to erect the building last summer. In the last year Carrie and Nathan have been working on the nine acres surrounding their home, with a vision to make it a place for folks to come and experience God in the beauty of His nature.
I started out this trip as an assistant — I held posts and handed tools to those doing the actual work. At first, I felt frustrated that I was not doing more. After all, I was there to work!
But slowly the calm and quiet of the setting began to infiltrate my being. I stood by the gently flowing creek waiting to hand metal clips to my friends Debby and Cheryl, who had become experts at attaching a wire fence to metal poles. I listened to the birds and a distant owl, and to the voices of our team as they called to each other. I breathed in the smells of pine trees, moss, and leaves composting on the ground.
I prayed in the quiet of the woods, lifting up several friends going through difficult times, for my family, for our team and for myself. Like the fern fronds that were spread throughout the trees, my consciousness opened to receive peace and grace. I let go of the shoulds and should haves that run through my mind on a regular basis and felt my daily stresses fall away.
During my devotion time the next morning, I read the familiar passage in Matthew when Jesus is telling us to come to him when we are weary. This time I read it from the modern translation, The Message. The words jumped out at me:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. God’s rhythm and our rhythms are often not in sync. Jobs, our families, paying the bills, cutting the grass, cooking dinner, going to meetings— all these demands of life cause us to be on the go, even for those of us in the retired stage of life.
God’s rhythm is a slower pace. When I match his pace, I walk with Jesus, instead of running ahead of him with my own agenda. I listen, instead of telling him what I think he needs to know or do. I share my fears and anger with him and let him take them over so that I don’t have to carry them by myself. Instead of being tired from working so hard, I come away from my time with him feeling refreshed— walking more freely and lightly.
Notice that Jesus is asking us to learn these unforced rhythms and how to rest from him. Did you ever think you needed to learn to rest? Many of us do and learning takes time.
We all need a break occasionally from our daily rhythms so that we can sync back up with God. I found that time in the woods last week. You may find it by getting away to listen to the ocean waves, taking a walk in the park, or sitting in a chair in your backyard. God is waiting on you.
For more information on Blue Mountain Church, visit their website.