It’s the beginning of a brand-new year. A few days in, but still brand-spanking-new. The day before the last year ended, we celebrated our family Christmas, and my mother (knowing of my frustration with devotionals written by people who seem to have life together) thoughtfully gave me a “Real-Life Devotional Bible.”
Today I sat down to look at it. And the first devotional in it centered on Genesis 1 – “In the Beginning…”
Apparently, an apt way to begin a new year.
The message of the devotion for “Day 1” was about rest. The author observed that throughout the creation story, there is a repeated statement: “…and there was evening, and there was morning…”
God creates and works, but the priority is rest. Time is centered on that period of rest, not of activity. It may seem to us that the most important part of the day is that part with the most energy, the most productivity, the most potential for getting things accomplished – but the time of rest is just as important, if not more so. To “rest” doesn’t necessarily mean sitting around twiddling your thumbs – although it may, for some folks – but to pause. To take a moment (or several) and center yourself. To reconnect with your priorities. To physically relax and let your body and mind be refreshed, renewed, restored.
In all honesty, it was a nice little devotional, but it dredged up a lot of frustration in me. I have struggled with feeling extremely disconnected from God for the past while – like I’ve tried everything I know how to do to try and connect but nothing seems to happen. There was a time when I had verbal, out-loud conversations with the Divine. When I could easily discern the next step of the moment or see God’s presence in the details of life. When Yhwh was tangibly present in every breath I took. But two years ago my understanding of God shifted. My understanding of God as passionate and compassionate, constructing and destructing, loving and angry, jealous and bold, gentle and grace-filled – was turned on its head. I still cannot reconcile how I could know so tangibly the Divine work I was engaged in as a wife/mother as well as a spiritual leader – and have that stripped away from me so violently by pastors standing on Kingdom Authority.
Did God take a rest that day? I don’t see how the Divine was present in that situation – both with me and against me in the same moment – in a position where I was told I had to decide how to cut my heart in half, only to have it torn by others.
In the last two years, I’ve had people (with the best intentions) suggest that this is a time of rest for me – that I should be thankful for it – that I should focus on my family – that I should seek peace and contentment. Never mind the gaping wound in my spirit, or that my faith has been bleeding out in front of them. Clots have formed, and callouses and scabs have occasionally grown – but the wound is still deep, and still present – and still comes back to the same point. Where was God? If all of this is part of some divine master-plan, or was in any way done with prayer and godly wisdom/guidance – how is it possible that the cost of the actions taken by others has been my Spirit? My faith? My soul?
Where is God in that? In all of my years working with Christians, with churches, in Divinity School, in ministry, in life – I have never seen such a contradiction. Where the Spirit-inspired actions of God have come at the cost of someone’s faith. Yes, bad things happen to good people. Yes, we seek to find purpose in them because it makes us feel better. Yes, there are times when we do need to take a period of rest and seek peace. But I’ve been trying to do that for two years now. I’ve all but given up because no matter how I turn it around in my head, I cannot understand how any of this is godly. Even though we landed in a godly place, and the people we are surrounded with are Christ-centered and care about us, I still don’t understand how these wounds were caused by holy means. How my heart could be shredded by Christ. How my faith could be so wounded by the One I trusted so much.
And so I fight the idea of rest. Of taking time and centering myself. Of making my relationship with God, who seemed to stand by and guide both sides of the harmful act, a priority. Of hoping that maybe this was all human pride and action – that the pastors standing on Kingdom Authority were wrong (not that they would admit it) and God was present but still somehow allowed my heart and faith to be mangled. Because my heart wasn’t cleanly cut – it was shredded. Because it hurts to sit still and bleed out. It scares me to imagine what I might hear if God speaks – what I might discover, or be asked to do if I rest.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God created, and then he rested before beginning a new day of creation. Time in Genesis begins in the evening – the time of rest ad renewal that comes before the act of creating, of providing, of sustaining.
If only it were an easy task.