Why don’t I do this more? It’s so good, so enjoyable, so satisfying!
That’s what I’ve been thinking over the last couple of days. What prompted these thoughts was finding silent prayers suddenly welling up within me during the course of the day, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
I find that I go through these occasional short (sadly) phases when I’m more aware of God’s presence with me than I usually am. In those times, I talk with God during the day-to-day routine of life, knowing that He is right by my side, that He knows what I’m doing and thinking.
I think one of the catalysts for this particular phase was the 2 camps I was on this week. The first camp was a Grace Community (the church we’re currently placed at) family camp, Sunday after the morning service until Monday lunchtime. Ethan was with me for that camp and we had a whale of a time! I took Ethan home and turned around to go to the following camp (at the same venue, as it happens!) which was a JECA (Japan Evangelical Church Association) camp for 10-18 year olds, from Monday afternoon until Wednesday lunchtime. During the camps, I would find myself silently praying as I watched the lads playing, as I watched the young people singing God’s praises, as we ate and chatted together, as we listened to the preacher…
Perhaps it’s is something to do with being out of my comfort zone and being forced to realise how depend I am on God and totally rely on Him. Or maybe its something about the nature of camp ministry: an intensive, very intentional few days focused on sharing Christ with young people, singing God’s praises together, feeding on His Word together in both Bible studies and from the preaching, praying for one another, discussing what God is teaching us and doing in us…
Whatever the cause, I know I want more of it. I want it to change from being something that is an occasional phase I go through. I want it to become a normal part of how I live day-to-day. I want it to become habitual, natural. I want to be always aware of God’s presence with me, not just in those special times set aside for reading the Bible and praying each morning only to forget about Him for the rest of the day. This is very basic really – simple relationship with God, what being a Christian is all about – and many of you are probably already doing this as a matter of course. (I’ve just read an article by C.H.Wright on this. Although I wouldn’t agree with everything, it was immensely helpful.)
I’ve found that although I’m very tired after the camps this week, I feel rested. By God’s grace, I’m also less impatient and irritable with my family – which makes for people being happier all round! I feel at peace, and a certain degree of satisfaction and contentment in knowing God. Paradoxically, I also know that I want more of Him. I’ve tasted and seen that He is good. That has whet my appetite so that I want more!
It’s made me think again about the nature of rest. Obviously we do need physical rest – God created us with the need to sleep and made night and day so there would be a rhythm of sleep in every 24 hours. I also think that ‘self-care’ is important – we need to look after ourselves so we don’t burn out in ministry. But whilst in the past I’ve read very good and helpful books on those work/rest issues, I wonder whether I’ve been missing the more important rest that comes from knowing God and trusting Him; rest for the soul.
One of the most famous verses in Japan is Matthew 11:28-30, where Jesus says,
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I’ve often wrestled with this passage, especially in times when I’ve felt heavy laden. I don’t think for a second that I have it all worked out, but I think one application of this in my life is to practice being aware of Christ’s presence with me; constant communion with God; to in a sense ‘go to Him’ (even though He is already here!). Despite feeling physically tired, my soul feels rested and it feels great!
- please pray that we would continue to find rest for our souls in Christ, talking with Him throughout the day
- pray too for continued work in the various churches where these young people came from, that what they learned on camp would not be a flash in the pan soon forgotten, but would be part of an ongoing process of ‘coming to Jesus’