Several weeks ago, I sat in the pediatric intensive care unit, waiting. It takes a long time to wait. But the hard work of waiting is nothing compared to the not-knowing. My granddaughter is seven and a half, born with a heart defect and privileged to live in our modern technological age, where she receives treatment that saves her life. This is her third open heart surgery.
Today, my daughter, who has not left the hospital in three days, needs rest. I want to say, “Now come along to some quiet place by yourself, and rest for a little while.” On the ward, there are people coming and going incessantly, so that my daughter has not had time for meals. I want to put her on a boat and send her off to a quiet place by herself, just as Jesus does with his travel-weary friends.
Today, for my daughter, there is no time to pause from the demands of parenting a child with special needs. For the refugees fleeing their homes to safer havens, there is no time to pause, no quiet place to rest. For many of us whose lives feel full of serving and loving and responding to the needs of others, where does rest play into the ministry framework? If we can hear the call to pause in the noisy maelstrom of our ordinary and demanding lives, how do we answer?
Sometimes we need the voice of another to speak up and say: “Enough. Come and rest.” These are good words. They are Jesus’ words.
We are not told if the disciples resisted Jesus’ suggestion. We imagine Peter piping up, “No, Lord, I don’t need rest” even while nodding off in his coffee. Whatever the case, Jesus calls them to rest, and to ensure they do, he sends them off in a boat to the other side of a very large lake. Ironically, boats for fishermen denote places of work. What is Jesus up to here?
We are not told what they do on their journey. We know they set sail and they encounter an adverse wind causing them to strain at the oars. Not exactly restful.Meanwhile, Jesus spends the night in prayer. In the wee hours of the morning and perhaps at the crest of swell, he appears to them as an impossibility. His friends encounter him in a new and unexpected way.
What are we to understand from these bizarre events? In times of weariness, often I have more questions than answers. Like Job, my questions penetrate God’s ear, but he responds in ways I don’t expect or understand. Maybe God’s response to Job is his to me too.
Most of my life is ordinary. I fold laundry, make food, visit the sick, and care for others as I can. Here in the mundanity of life, in times of strain and rest, I meet Jesus. Or rather Jesus comes to me in remarkable ways.
This morning before going to the hospital, I walked Jericho Beach to clear my head and pray. I paused to answer a text message and a friend stopped to chat, and then another friend. They asked about my day and I told them. We gathered in a huddle and they prayed – for me, for the surgeons, for my daughter, and for my granddaughter. Just then, I glimpsed seaward and felt almost certain I saw someone walking on the water. A glimpse of eternity in a moment of pause from the hard stuff of life.
When I returned to the hospital, I took my daughter in my arms and invited her to sit and eat, to lay her head on a pillow and close her eyes, if only for a moment. I long to be attentive to the call to pause and lovingly invite others, weary pilgrims with heaviness in their hearts and limbs, to come and rest. Amid the adverse winds that may arise, Jesus invites us to Himself. He is our true rest.