I recently had a bit of a scare. Wouldn’t call it a brush with death or anything, but it certainly wasn’t a casual experience. While I was visiting Hawaii, a friend and I decided to go snorkeling. We went to a beach where I’d been before, but the surf was strong so he suggested I borrow a pair of flippers. I’m not used to using flippers in the water, and discovered that for my style of swimming (specifically – no style), the flippers are more a hindrance than a help. I exhausted myself just getting past the shore break and by the time we got to where we could start snorkeling, I was nervous about getting back to shore. Normally, this wouldn’t actually be much of a problem. Snorkeling is a fairly restful activity when done correctly, but I did that thing you’re not supposed to do in the water and panicked. All I could think about was keeping my head above water to breathe. I would try to put my face in the water and use the snorkel, but I would get it in my head that a wave was going to come and fill it, and then I’d be right back up at the surface, struggling again. Long story short, I decided to go back in and was very very happy to just sit on a beach for the rest of the afternoon.
Tonight I was praying, and God brought this experience back to mind. How often do we all do this in life? We struggle so hard to push through this or that; make it through the day, the week, the time until our next vacation so we can have a break and breathe. But all the while God wants to help us breathe right where we are. We can find our rest even out in the water. As long as we’re trying to do it all ourselves, keep it together, keep our heads above water, we’re just going to struggle and wear ourselves out. But when we give in, put our faces in the water and trust that even though it feels wrong we can relax and breathe, a whole new world opens up. Suddenly, even though we’re out in deep water, it’s not exhausting anymore. It works with us. We can enjoy the ride, not noticing the turmoil of the surface as we get absorbed in the life happening right in front of us.
I remember a time back when I was living in Hawaii where this concept became real for me. I was working a job that started at 6:30 every morning, so I had to wake up around 4:30 to make it out of the house on time. I became a hoarder of sleep. I started to get to the point where I would get really angsty with people when they interrupted it. If Bible study went to long, if there was too much traffic, if no one made leftover dinner and I got home and had to make my own I would get irrationally, unreasonably angry. And then one day I realized I was ruining my life. That my struggle to carve out my own rest was ruining my relationships and stealing my peace. And, ironically, exhausting me. So I decided to stop. I gave my sleep to God and told Him, “I’m just going to trust that if I’m giving someone your love after fellowship or helping someone out over the phone and end up not getting as much sleep as I need, that you’re going to take care of me and make sure I get the REST I need anyway.” And it was like a flip switched. I was so much happier after that. And God absolutely took care of my rest. Within a couple weeks I was probably averaging about two hours less sleep a night, but still just as rested as I’d ever been.
The thing is, humans just aren’t great at doing life on their own. Look at any adult. Generally frazzled and/or exhausted. The standard answer to, “How’s it going?” is, “Busy!” We try to juggle all these different things and just ended up dropping a lot of balls. But there is a way to find rest in the midst of it all. We just have to trust our Snorkel, trust that it’s not up to us to keep our own heads above water.