Last night about 9pm, it started to rain lightly. When I heard the rain falling on our roof, I went outside to enjoy it. The temperature had dropped, so it was cool out; there was a nice breeze to the air, so it was even a bit chilly; and I love the smell during and right after a rain. Growing up on another Caribbean island where it rains often, this does not come as a surprise. Cathi made a joke when she heard the rain and said all she could think about was the song from Michael W. Smith, "Let it rain. Open the floodgates of heaven..." How badly we need the rain. Chambrun is dry and barren; little vegetation, not a lot of shade, and very dusty. We were also very thankful that the rain came early (rainy season doesn't start until April).
This morning, as I began my run, I realized that the rain also complicated things. I couldn't really use my normal path because it was wet and muddy (I run on rocky dirt roads). So, I had to constantly be on the look-out to make sure I wasn't stepping in mud and sliding all over the place. At the same time, I continued to accumulate a build-up of mud on my shoes, which weighed my feet down, which made it harder to run. One of my favorite times to think, pray, and meditate is when I'm on the road, running. This morning, I was annoyed at the distraction of the complications brought on by the mud. That is, until I realized God was teaching me a lesson.
We often pray for God to "let it rain" on our souls. We ask that He shower us with His Holy Spirit so that we can relish in His presence and lose ourselves in His love and mercy. It's a great prayer. But we need to understand the full implications of what we're asking. The Holy Spirit also comes to "convict the world of guilt in regard to
sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8) and "guide you into all
truth" (16:13). In other words, He will also expose that is within us
that needs to change. This can be an uncomfortable part of the package deal. After the initial refreshing of His presence, we can begin to feel bogged down by our inadequacy and short-comings.
The other effect is that as He fills us with His love, we will in turn love others more and see them as He sees them. We begin to be more aware of the hurting around us. Over the last few weeks, Cathi and I seem to just go from heartache to heartache with people we know and love here in Haiti. Just as an example, yesterday we found out that a couple we know lost their baby at 7 months. Our hearts just hurt for them and with them. If we continue to just pile all of this on, we'll be so bogged down with grief and worry that we'll cease to be effective here - just as I was being worn out by the weighing down of my shoes, collecting mud as I ran. Why would God want me to be bogged down like this? He doesn't. But that's what happens when we carry it all on our own.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary an burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle an humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." How many of us continue to go at breakneck speed in our jobs, families, and even in ministry without taking a break? It seems like a noble pursuit and lifestyle to continue going past your energy reserves in order to serve. Someone once told me that we can only minister out of the overflow of our lives, and if we attempt to do so out of a deficit, we will soon find it's a detriment to both them and ourselves. God instituted the Sabbath for a reason. It's far more than taking a physical pause to recoup. It's time God intended for us to spend with Him for our renewal. And we don't have to be legalistic on what day a Sabbath should be or what it looks like; it's more about keeping the spirit in which the Sabbath was given. To ignore this is to neglect a need God placed inside of us. I chose to just be annoyed at the piling mud on my shoes this morning and pushed on with the run so that I could keep a good time and feel good about not stopping. However, if I'd paused every so often (or even just once during the run!) to wipe the mud from my shoes as I ran, I could have continued at the same pace for a longer period of time. In the end, I would have run better that way, rather than just stumbling through it. Taking the time to be renewed in Christ will allow us to keep running and be able to run well.
So, by all means, let's pray that God would "let it rain." But let's not get to the point where we're so exhausted that our way to cope is to pray this. Let's be continually seeking God's renewal in our lives, so that He can continue molding us into His image and hold us up. In Him, there is rest for the weary.