It's a radiant four pm. The counters are wiped, slick. The sink is empty and dinner is simmering next to my teapot, also humming. The children are willingly lost in the woods out back and the babe still asleep. I can't smell anyone's afternoon sweat and there's not a disparate sock in sight. The only smell in my house, aside from dinner, is the new candle I lit to memorialize afternoons like this one.
I sink into my chair, alone, with a book and my Bible and I'm ready to receive all that the next full hour of rest has for me.
This is you, too, right? "Once every three and a half months," you answer, if you're like me.
Except in my mind's eye.
If there is room for fantasy for a mother of five who moonlights as a writer, this would be my daily fantasy. Life ordered and quiet -- so that I can actually rest.
For many years, I'd twirled this fantasy like a reward in front of my daily schedule. If I could just get it all done by 4pm, I can breathe then. My insides raged when it was 3:45 and I still had five things I'd planned to finish that day that were undone or if the sink was full of dishes and the counters hastily scrubbed by still-learning hands. My lists talked back to me.
I would have thought this line of thinking came with motherhood and multiple children and all their needs -- who can keep up, right? - except that one afternoon I looked in the mirror and wondered how I got all that gray between now and when I was nineteen (and thinking these very same thoughts). Back then, it was papers and exams and volunteering in ministry. The Magical Four o'clock didn't happen then, either. It couldn't for the one, like me, who had eyes on output as the measure of a woman.
Then we started taking a weekly Sabbath: one day a week of leaving aside what's left undone that teaches my body and my soul Who really is running this life.
The children stay in their jammies, long, and we drink tea and read books and talk about things that don't come up when there's soccer practice and math problems and corners to be swept. We laugh.
My laundry room used to jeer at me with its bloated invitations and the kitchen called my name, reminding me of the girl who used to think it all had to be in line before she could rest, until I started to simply decide to ignore it on Saturdays.
On Saturdays, He began to teach me why rest is such a wrestle.
To actively choose to rest wasn't just the obvious "no" to the to-do list and the disparate socks that needed a match -- it was also a "no" to the external noise that keeps me from being bare before God, on the inside.
Saturdays were awkward for me. I heard my heart like you hear the ocean at dusk, when all the sunbathers and sand-castle builders head home for the day. I had barely noticed before that my heart sometimes cracked against my insides -- I didn't hear it above the noise of life. And I hadn't developed a love for when it laps, quietly, against the Hand that made me.
Rest is a conscious fast that offers us the power of a listening life. A day of rest creates a cadence that says: my internal life in God is more important than my output; therefore, I will fast my output and quiet my life to listen for God.
Yup, even when the sink is full. What I started to receive on Saturdays gave me a craving for 4 o'clock on Mondays and Tuesdays and Thursdays, but with enough soul-training under my belt this time that I could walk away from the dishes, light a candle, and talk to God.
And though my children's lives aren't yet weighted with significant responsibility, their frames are already searching for a grid to find God when life is loud. Would they be learning, by watching me, to respond to noise with ... more noise?
Mamas, our babies are growing up within a cacophony of sounds from the world outside and their minds inside that is clamoring for output as the measure of their person. Their beach is packed and they can't hear the waves of the ocean in the backdrop over all those tourists.
Invite them to come at dusk and see the beauty of His deep, by taking up the invitation yourself.
Teach them (passively) just where it is that you put your trust by stepping over those self-imposed demands in order to sit in His lap.
Whether for a day, or an hour, just.start.somewhere. Leave the dishes untouched and the laundry spilling over, and sit in the awkwardness of quiet -- when you have a hundred reasons not to be quiet -- until it doesn't feel awkward anymore and He feels near.
Images courtesy of Mandie Joy