What is your greatest risk right now?
As I try to answer this question for myself, my mind initially floats to dreams of writing a book or other task related goals, like the practical aspects of living more simply. But I can’t help but wonder if these are truly my biggest risks.
Vicki Courtney shares about a conference she spoke at, where she asked the women there what their biggest risk might be. Like me, many shared of books yet to be written, jobs yet to be applied for and dreams yet to come true. But Vicki had a different answer.
“As I thought about the question, “What is your greatest risk? I realized that my greatest risk at that moment was not to do more, serve more, or prove more, but rather to do less. Much less. So I decided to tell the truth. “My greatest risk is slowing down and resting. I have forgotten how to be still.”
When I read her words, I felt like I’d been sucker punched, in the good-kind-of-Holy-Spirit-conviction sort of way.
One of the words that Jesus gave me for this year (unwanted, though much needed) is REST. My hearts knows that I feel like I have something to prove. I feel like I need to earn rest. I feel like I need to deserve the right to slow down. But even as I say this, my heart knows that this isn’t how the Lord works. The rhythm of work and rest is how I was made. The Lord doesn’t ask me to earn anything. All of life is a gift, from him to me.
All of life is a grace.
I love what Vicki says about the Lord giving us grace, “He does not tire of offering you grace to cover your sin. Again. For the bazillionth time. He won’t lecture you for being a no-show, regardless of your reason. He eagerly waits to offer mercy and grace in your time of need. Regardless of what hinders you from connecting with God, your soul will lack rest until you turn to Him as the one thing you needed.” (113)
I truly appreciated the truth found in her book, Rest Assured. She speaks of her own struggle to slow down, to rest, to choose a different option for living. As she shares, I say “me too” over and over and over again.
“When we say yes to too many other things, we are actually saying no to God. Only God can bring the rest and satisfaction our souls crave.” (11)
This is me. This is what happens when I try to prove myself and pretend to not need rest.
“When Martha tattled to Jesus about her slacker sister, she fully expected Him to intercede on her behalf. Isn’t that what we do when we say yes to too much and end up with too much on our plate? We send up a flare prayer for reinforcements to help us maintain the pace, never imagining that God wants us to change the pace.” (122)
Seriously. Okay, this is me again. I so want the Lord to help me keep up with something that isn’t good for me, instead of imagining that he might want something entirely different for me. I pray for his help to accomplish everything on my to-do list, never imagining that the to-do list might not be good in the first place.
“Oh sure, we put up a spiritual front and say we deeply desire more time for rest and solitude, but deep down we fear solitude because it strips us of our titles and roles. Our worth is so destructively connected to our doing, serving, solving, and going that apart from that pace, we might suffer a loss of identity. Yet the very thing we’re trying to avoid–solitude–is the very thing that heals our weary souls.”(123)
Yikes. This is me AGAIN. This was one of the biggest reasons why I feared leaving my job. My worth felt so tied up to what I was doing. I was afraid to slow down and let go of a familiar role and title. Solitude is the healing I need and I’m afraid of it. Even now, in a slower pace and with different titles and roles, it is hard work to not connect what I am doing to where my worth is found.
She quotes Henri Nouwen as he talks of solitude being the “furnace of transformation:”
“In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding; no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me—naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken—nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.” (133)
No wonder I want to jump on social media or scrub a toilet or anything but be alone sometimes. It is scary to be alone. It is absolutely frightening to have to trust the Lord with my “enoughness” instead of proving it myself. We all want to believe we are worth something. Being alone cuts the charade and the pretending and makes me faces my deepest fears: “Am I enough? Am I worth something?”
“If you struggle with allowing your work to bleed into your leisure time, I encourage you to set some firm boundaries. Only you can solve the problem of overwork. The daily demands of your job will hijack your leisure time until you decide to take some drastic measure to protect it.” (159)
Yep. So often I blame the event or the other people or the job for overwork and a lack of rest in my life. But it is me who is saying yes. It is me who is showing up. I always have the power to say no. I always get to choose. Rest is something I can choose to fight for.
Tim Keller calls the Sabbath an act of trust, and I couldn’t agree more. (I have a feeling Vicki Courtney would say so too.) In this current culture of comparison and busyness, I won’t fall into a state of rest without fighting for it. Rest might just be my biggest risk.
It is risky business to make a move towards rest.
It is risky business to choose boundaries.
It is risky business to slow down and be alone.
It is risky business to turn off my phone and computer.
It is risky business to be still with the Lord.
It is risky business to trust him with my to-do list, with my agenda, with my worth, with my life.
These things may be tremendously risky, but I also think they are the things that bring the healing and wholeness my soul so desperately craves. They are the things that I need even if I don’t want them. They are the things that I’m made for.
They are risks worth taking.
*If you resonate with the need for rest, I recommend Vicki Courtney’s book, “Rest Assured.” Not only does she honestly share about her convictions and journey with choosing Sabbath, but she provides practical suggestions and questions to work through. A solid B+ for me. Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers have provided me with a complimentary copy of “Rest Assured,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255