I awakened to the words of a hymn pushing their way to the front of my crowded mind. No music, just the words, "There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God." My mind rarely finds rest from a restless swirl of thoughts: tasks to be done, articles to write, correspondence to answer, children's cares, the demands of the days, finances, future---you know the story. But often when I awaken and put my mind on the Lord or look out my window to see the morning sky (we don't have curtains on our windows.), my mind is filled with scripture, or some kind of thought from the Lord. So, I started thinking about this phrase that had popped into my mind.
Fast Forward to this morning. Joy, my darling, funny, extraverted, winsome and always talking and wondering out-loud daughter, said, "You know, online media just can't substitute for a real person. You can see words or a picture, but you can't see the movement of a nervous gesture, or smell the perfume or odor of someone or look into their eyes, or hear the tone of their voice. There is no substitute in a relationship for the real thing."
How very true--words on a screen or book can be helpful--but they aren't the real thing. For instance, you can look at the picture up above and imagine what you will, but you can't know that uphill climb that we had all taken up a tiny pathway on the Austrian Alps, and found ourselves peering into the faces of cows on a meadow pasture full of wild flowers or understand the energy of Joy who dived into the grass. You can get an idea, but the frolicking, out of breath, surprise at the large animals, the tension and verbal jousting that was taking place between my oldest two children in their 20's with my 15 year old alive teen girl.
Over the years, my children and Clay and I have realized that people suppose they know us because they have read my books. Of course words do help and provide some truth, as well as pictures. But, without spending time in our presence, people can only suppose they know us.
My children just smile politely in public at the things people say, while keeping their thoughts to themselves most of the time. Often, people fill in the gaps of what they don't know about us using their own imagination and ascribing to us their own values and tastes. But most of the time, what they have supposed they knew about us is not exactly true. Often people think of us as some sort of spiritual people who sit around talking about deep things while always having a book in our hands. But in reality, we are a real quirky group and much more "every day" types--loud, arguing a lot, making messes and usually complaining about washing dishes--because though we love to feast and celebrate life--we are more artistic at heart and find the messes and reality of chores --well a chore! We dance a lot, wiggle a lot, sing loudly and listen to loud music in the car, tell funny jokes, discuss everything with strong opinions and live like normal people. But to know us, truly, you have to spend time with us over a period of time in the real moments of our lives with us.
It struck me, as I was still pondering, there is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God--that it is the same with Him. You can't just read words on a page. Or sit stiffly in a pew once a week, while pondering what you are going to have for lunch, or read a 5 minute blog post.
A real relationship is built over time through every moment of sharing life.
You can't just read God's Facebook profile and suppose you can be close to His heart. To be near to His heart--understanding His heart, believing He really loves you, experiencing His personality, requires hours and hours of real life in His presence--knowing His words through the voice of scripture and then talking to Him--pouring out your heart in prayer that is engaging with Him in the privacy of your own room, all alone, believing. Living through years of seeing His faithfulness.
In the Chronicles of Narnia, when confronted by the idea of Aslan, the lion, who is a picture of God, Lucy asks, "Is He safe?"
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
Mr. Tumnus also says, "He's wild, you know. Not a tame lion."
God is grand, beyond our imagination, everywhere, powerful, gentle. We may never know Him fully, but acknowledging His presence in the reality of a quiet snow storm, the painted evening sunset, the comforting embrace of a friend or lover, the grace of forgiving, gentle words from a loved one, in the flesh real live person who is being God to us, laughing or crying or having a warm, intimate embrace, and actively loving Him through each moment, understanding that He was the designer of these gracious moments of life.
It can't be found from saying, "Tomorrow, I will do better." Or "Tomorrow I will make myself have a devotional," with guilt in my heart.
It is found in a heart fully alive to Him--through my messing up and my being a child in my faith--but loving, loving, loving and seeking Him while I may be found. It is not virtual--imagined by reading one more book, but it is days upon days of just being, walking with, talking to, resting in--His presence, in His word, contemplating Him, complaining to Him, doubting Him, knowing His patient grace and love, when most undeserved--just like a real relationship. If I invest my time and my heart, I will indeed end up with a real, in the flesh relationship.
And so if I am to find that place of quiet rest--it must be as a result of being with Him, day in day out and then coming to know Knowing and understanding Him through all the moments of my life, through what He has made, what He has said, what He has taught me through His Holy Spirit, what I have learned from being with other godly people who are filled with His attributes. It is a real live relationship-exciting, always mysterious, an adventure, but to be close to His heart--will always, always bring confidence, peace, security.
If I engage my worship of Him through all the moments of walking them with Him as my closest of companions, then a natural result will be that I will be and feel near to His heart and then I will find that being there, it is a place of quiet rest. But, it is a life intentional, lived, pursued--without the investment of heart, time, mind and soul (Loving Him with our heart, soul, mind and strength), there can be no rest--But if I invest my whole being in Him, with all honesty as I am with Him, getting to know Him as my not tame lion, then I will come to find more than I ever hoped for.