Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime IV
Forgetting to Take a Break from the Trail to Rest
For me it happened most vividly while I was a student at Bible college. I was taking a full load of courses in my first semester, serving a church that was 65 miles away, and trying to be a good husband and father in my home. I had Old Testament, New Testament, Preaching, A Bible Intensive, and Theology for courses. In addition I had three messages to prepare every week. Needless to say I spent a lot…I mean A LOT…of time reading and studying my Bible. It would not be impossible to say that there were days, especially Saturdays, that I was in God’s Word from the time I got up until I would finally drag myself to bed.
With all of the time I was spending with my Bible open before me you would think that I would evolve into some sort of Spiritual giant in the faith. However, I was slowly and surely sliding in the opposite direction. It became evident in a number of ways in my life. I was becoming impatient with my wife and kids. I was making really poor decisions in a multitude of arenas. I struggled to drive myself to do the things that I had once found so much pleasure and fulfillment in doing.
Looking back on it now I understand what was happening. It’s like a peace lily that we had at our home in Florida. We have an unwritten rule in our home that we don’t buy plants. People who don’t know us real well may give us a plant from time to time, but we don’t buy them. We believe that it is unfair to knowingly subject a helpless piece of vegetation to the abuse and torture that living—or attempting to live—in our home would bring. However, if we are going to have a plant it is best to have one that tells us what it needs and when it needs it.
Such was the case with this peace lily. One day this poor plant had become so dehydrated that when I stopped to notice it every leaf and stem looked like it had melted and was slipping out of the pot it was planted in. This poor thing needed water in a critical way. I don’t know how many days it had been, but clearly it had been too long. I was sure it was dead and there was little hope for any recovery. I put the water on it, not so much in mercy, but more to quell my own guilt figuring at least I could say I tried. To my surprise the plant bounced back. It’s recovery was so swift that I was literally shocked. Now, if I were to buy a plant—which remains unlikely—I would buy one of these plants.
Now, here’s the lesson I’m trying to get across. The plant was in the house. There was water in the house. The plant had every advantage of being there with the water in the shelter. However, it had to receive the water personally. That’s what was happening to me at Bible college. I was there studying and reading the Word of God. I was able to sit under men of God who brought deep truths to life for me. I had all of the advantages of being in a place like that with the opportunities I had, but I wasn’t personally receiving “the water” myself. I wasn’t taking time to hear what God wanted to tell me personally. God wanted more that my sermon preparation time. More than the time I was putting in to prepare for the next exam, quiz, paper, or study. God wanted me to come to the well and drink and enjoy what He had provided especially for me. I needed to come and just be quiet with Him. When I started to do that my spiritual strength began to return. The tasks that had become a drudgery took on a new life and vitality. Like that peace lily I made a swift and magnificent recovery.
I wish I could tell you that I never had to relearn that lesson from those days. It would be a lie. Seems like the things that matter most, the things that make the most difference for us, are the things that are so easily swept away in the high speed course of our lives. So, it takes a determination that you are going to pause along the trail and rest with Jesus. It means planning ahead and not allowing things to get in the way of that quiet time with Him.
I hope that I have begun to persuade you that you are going to need to stop along the trail that is before you as a follower of Jesus. Watch for those tell-tale signs (the wilting leaves) that often appear in our attitudes within our relationships. You might well be engaged in some really good things, perhaps great things for the kingdom of God. The thing that matters most however is the quiet time you spend at the feet of Jesus and rest in His presence.
(Next, some tools for making your quiet time the best)