So many of us are so busy and tired that we’ve entirely forgotten what peace and rest feel like.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at a church in Texas called Austin Mustard Seed, and I spoke on rest and Sabbath. It was a great opportunity to refresh my own understanding of what it means to find our rest in God.
Rest from a biblical perspective is definitely not about taking a nap when we are exhausted or about relaxing in preparation for a busy week ahead. Part of my message that week was digging into various psalms to see how different versions talk about rest, and which words they use for it.
In Psalm 62:1-2, one of my favourites verses on rest, some versions use trust or sit quietly instead of rest, but the one that held my attention was The Message which talks about “breathing room for the soul.” What a beautiful way to describe the rest we find when we allow the presence of God to fill us.
Breathing room for the soul is that wonderful place of intimacy where we delight in God and God delights in us.
Rest like this does not just happen however. Breathing room moments are created when we intentionally sit quietly imagining God in and around us, filling us to overflowing with the wonder of a warm embrace. They are brief personal moments when we deliberately pause for time out from our busy schedules and allow a sense of stillness to dissipate the concerns of the day. Restful prayer and peace take effort and intentionality.
How Do We Cultivate These Restful Moments?
1. Take Notice of the Spaces that Encourage Rest
Maybe for you, this is a place in nature life beside a waterfall or in a garden corner, or a special at home place like a comfortable armchair, or a cozy meal with friends, or even at work place where we invite God into our office, a local coffee shop or a park bench.
Taking notice of these places and visiting them regularly throughout the day or week is a wonderful way to experience breathing room for the soul.
Question: What are the spaces in your home, neighbourhood and workplace that encourage you to enter the rest of God?
2. Notice the Sensory Experiences that Allow Your Soul to Breathe
For some it is sights like photos, written prayers or scriptures, religious icons or paintings. For others it is sounds like water cascading over rocks, bells ringing, birds singing.
Still others find rest when the aromas of baking bread or the fragrance of flowers come to them. Or perhaps it is the feel of the texture of wood, or velvet or a loved one’s face that draws you into God’s rest.
It can even be the taste of a good meal, a cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate.
Question: What types of sensory stimuli allow your soul to breathe and enter the rest of God?
3. Recognize actions that encourage you to stop, rest and delight in God
Moses took off his shoes when he recognized that he had entered a holy place, and without his sandals on it was obvious that he was there to stay a while.
For some of us it is kneeling, or raising our hands in the air that carries us into that place of rest. For others it is reciting a breathing prayer or walking the labyrinth. Or it might be colouring images, or painting pictures, lettering or rocks.
Sometimes it is in community with others – preparing a meal together, singing together, gardening together are all actions I find can draw me into that restful presence of God. Even washing the dishes or vacuuming the floor are special, sacramental actions that invite some of us into the place where we delight in God.
Question: What are the actions you can identify that encourage you to stop, rest and delight in God?
What Is Your Response?
I encourage you to try this. Sit quietly, hands in your lap, palms upwards ready to receive from God.
Take a couple of deep breaths in and out. Visualize your breath flowing into your heart and into your soul. Relax into the presence of God and imagine God in you and around you filling that breathing room of your soul. Enjoy the wonder of God’s warm embrace.
Slowly ready through the prayer above and allow it to settle into your spirit.
Bring to mind one thing that delights you about God.
Sit for a moment and savour that delight.
Now imagine one thing about you that God delights in.
Sit still and allow the delight of God to fill you.
Open your eyes and take out your journal. Write down what you experienced. You might like to respond with a prayer, a doodle, a sketch or even a song.
I’ll leave you with this breathing prayer. Try to align your thoughts and attitude to the inward, outward rhythm, breathing in and out, attuning yourself to the Spirit.
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