Restless

“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

“You’re a good boy–when you’re asleep.”

Two wise statements, made by two very different wise men.

The first is a famous quote from St. Augustine of Hippo, a leader in the Catholic Church in the fourth and fifth centuries.  He was, by the way, not a man given to resting early in life, himself a famously wild youth.  He understood, very personally, the restlessness of the human heart.

The second statement was made more recently.  Actually, I said it just the other day to one of my grandchildren, but truth be told, my father-in-law is the wise man who taught it to me.  He understood the restlessness of children.

I will now proceed directly past the discussion about medication for hyperactivity in children, mostly because of the vociferous defenders of the need for it.  I will, just as judiciously, avoid the conversation about diet for the same reason. 

Leaving those deep, theoretical discussions to those more highly qualified, I will move quickly to the more obvious solution.  You’ll be amazed at my acumen.

Restlessness is cured by rest.

My father-in-law knew it.  He regularly proclaimed it to many a rambunctious child.

That phrase he used to utter suddenly reminds me of a night many years ago, when my brother and I couldn’t seem to achieve that state–of being asleep and resting, that is.  It wasn’t all that rare an occurrence, but we usually controlled our volume level to the point that it didn’t make much difference to the adults in the rooms just below us.  On this night though, the argument was more than we could keep localized.

Suddenly, we became aware of the footsteps in the hallway leading to the steps, and a voice called up the steep staircase.

“You boys come down here right now!”

Oh.  Now look what we had done.  We were undoubtedly headed for a meeting with the cloth belt which Dad kept for just such occasions.  Well, there was nothing else to be done.  Reluctantly, we rolled out of our beds and our feet carried us slowly down the stairs to face our destiny.  Imagine our surprise when we were motioned into the dining room, instead of the bathroom (that was the locale where corporal punishment was always meted out)!  Our spirits lifted.  Still–no good could come of a midnight meeting with Dad.  We awaited the news with dread.

“You boys don’t want to sleep?  How about if you do some work instead?”

We looked at each other.  Work?  Who worked in the middle of the night?  Oh well.  If it got us out of a spanking, we were game.  For the next two hours, we swept, mopped and waxed the dining room floor.  All the while, Dad sat in a recliner in the living room and pretended to read while sleeping.  Or, did he pretend to sleep while reading?  I never could tell.

Either way, we knew better than to slacken off.  The floor glistened and shone when two tired little boys headed back up the stairs after two o’clock that morning.  We would be proud when we arose the next day.

For now, we were just exhausted.  I can’t speak for the other culprit, but I fell into my bed and slept as if I were dead to the world.

You’re a good boy–when you’re asleep.

That ancient wise man from Algeria also understood what it was to rest.  He had lived the life of dissipation, had partied with the wild bunch.  He knew what it was to be restless.  But when he was called by a faith that could not be denied, he comprehended what he had been searching for all of his life.

I wonder.  Do we comprehend what our hearts are seeking?

I do not easily give in to rest.  I have spent many sleepless nights in torment over one crisis after another.  My hyperactive brain turns the problem first one way, and then another.  I have a solutionBut no.  My brain worries at the issue, until another argument with my inner self ensues. 

Even in normal waking hours, I fret and fume about one problem or another.  Life has no shortage of such issues.

Today was another of those days.  Nothing was working well in my professional pursuits and then a message came, followed by a phone call that set off alarm bells about a personal issue. 

Rest?  Where is rest to be found?

I don’t have a pat answer to how the solution will be implemented.  I do know that those two wise men quoted above were both on the right path.

I will head upstairs in a moment or two, ready to sleep.  The landscape will almost certainly look different in the light of a new day.  Sleep is rest and I’ll take a dose of that soon.

But, that is not all that I need to remember, is it?  There is something to be said for a haven, a harbor, in the storm, isn’t there?  A place of rest and protection.  We all need it.

But, here’s the enigma I keep finding.  When I actively seek that haven, that rest, for myself I cannot pin it down.  It seems to be nowhere that I can find.  The search actually becomes part of the restlessness, the storm.

The mystery is that when I stop my frantic searching for rest and just give up, He grants the rest that I so desperately have been seeking.  The struggle is His, not mine.

I will rest.

In Him.

Again.
 

“Be still my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed, we shall meet at last.”
(Be Still My Soul ~ Katharina von Schlegel ~ 1752)

“He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and He brought them to their desired haven.”
(Psalm 107:29,30 ~ ESV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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