After traveling by car 6,100 miles through Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri, we are home sweet home again in Texas. We saw desert sunsets, brilliant-colored cactus flowers, high-desert mountains, snow-capped peaks, majestic waterfalls, bubbling streams, forests, woods, marshlands, soaring red rocks, geysers, and a myriad of wildlife along the way. What a magnificent and blessed country — America! There is just so much to explore in our native land.
For the last few years, we have been captivated by the nations, enthralled with exotic places like the Greek islands and the majesties of the Swiss Alps, the ancient fountains of Italy, the mineral sands and waters of the Dead Sea, and the color, warmth, people, and cuisines of South America. It’s all too much to mention here. So this sabbatical that we chose to take at home was unexpectedly pleasing, full of beauty, and wonder. We found ourselves in our own backyard and loving the deposits of glorious creation planted there.
Driving from place to place allowed us to talk… to talk a lot, and we came to a few conclusions which I believe will help us in the next phase of our lives. I am convinced that a road trip is one of the best ways to air out, blow the cobwebs away from the corners of the mind, process, and enable the spirit, soul, and body to come into harmony with the Spirit of God.
A great benefit is that after all the beautiful scenery, laughing, taking it easy, enjoying each other, praying and singing on the road, we had a few epiphanies. And I almost hate to say a few, because one epiphany alone is enough to carry me some distance on the journey of life. I really don’t want to sound glib when I say a few, but when Wayne and I let ourselves down and really began to communicate some of the things that had been pressed down over the last few years, a fount opened — of revelation and practical wisdom.
We saw more clearly the mistakes we had made in the last 15 years and the right choices too. Some of the reasons for both became apparent, and we talked about how to keep from making some of the same blunders again.
The end result for this road trip/sabbatical was rest, fun, and several epiphanies — which are worth their weight in gold. Some of them are more profound than others, and none of them may be life-changing for anyone but my hubby and me.
But I want to share them, if only for the purpose of seeing them in black and white. It is part of the process of applying and allowing these new precepts for life to take root and develop growth and fruit in the days ahead.
I have loved Psalm 23 since childhood and have memorized it in several versions. I have returned to it numerous times in crisis and in joy and plenty, recounting the words, rolling them over and over in my mind and heart, savoring not only their meanings, but the richness of the syllables themselves. I know this may seem weird, but I am a writer and enthralled with letters — however they come and change.
The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
The revelation that dawned on us was this: For the last 15 years we have been building an international ministry, living oversees for half of that time, traveling extensively for all of it, expanding, raising funds ad infinitum, opening new schools, pastoring the leaders, and exploring new vistas. We have had many challenges and a lot of fun and joy along the way. Every night when I go to bed, I thank the Lord that we said yes to these opportunities. We feel this has been God’s perfect will for our lives.
But we have been living in survival/pioneer mode everyday from our launch and send off. Sometimes along the way, we took a snippet of time to rest here and there; but we continually pressed forward, not really slowing down or stopping to rest completely.
I believe the thing that wore us out more than anything is the mental and physical demands of living in survival — being alert spiritually and otherwise at all times, never letting down, never letting the enemy take ground — being on all the time… Survival mode is different from maintaining mode or just living. It requires alertness, readiness, risking, sacrificing, not resting when you are tired, pressing forward… It is like being in war, you fight until the victory is won. And in some ways, this is the Christian life. We never let go of our swords, but there is a rest that restores even in the middle of great battles and times of spiritual effectualness. For instance, the farmer completes the harvest no matter how tired he is, but he knows there is an end to the harvest. The day will come when he can sit in front of the fire and eat the fruits for which he labored.
In the kingdom of God we are in decades and decades of harvesting, so we must pace ourselves.
Before our sabbatical I thought life has to be easier than this — especially the Christian life. I was exhausted in every way possible.
When we did take brief vacations, it was with the green pastures and quiet waters in mind. And I do believe they are important, or King David, the shepherd boy, would not have mentioned them in this popular Psalm. Those key ingredients coupled with “He restores my soul” make for the perfect rest and rejuvenation.
It is not the mountain scene or the serene lake reflecting the shivering aspen leaves in its depths on a quiet afternoon that causes us to let down out of survival mode and deeply rest. The world seeks this. It may not be the beauty of nature, but maybe it is the casino halls of Reno or the wild loose living of the Mardi Gras, or cultured life of the big city. It’s about escaping and maybe numbing.
Where ever it is and for whatever reason, it is not enough. It is the Lord that restores the soul. The Lord in that place of green pastures and quiet waters. That’s where the restoration begins — apart from the world in a beautiful place of His glorious creation. We found that in those surroundings, it was the desperate cry from our hearts for HIM that brought healing for the years of hard and fast living.
We took days in nature but not without His presence hovering, watching us, talking to us, loving us, lifting us above the swirling activities of the past. As we waited for Him to show up in our green pastures and quiet streams, wounds from the past bubbled up, and I walked through deep inner healing in some areas. Sharp and hurtful things that I did or said to others rose to the top as well, and I repented. Insensitivities to each other in our marriage became apparent, and we asked forgiveness. It was a process of the dross coming to the top and God’s Word and His Holy Spirit washing it out.
We began to realize that we had stuffed a lot of stuff for 15 years, and much of it came out. We skimmed it off and asked the Lord to change and heal us. As the process continued, new dreams and plans for tomorrow arose as well. And we feel better equipped to take on the wonderful challenges of fresh adventures.
Green pastures, quiet waters, and the Lord — these three make for a dynamic combination for the kind of rest that deeply restores. Although we have used all of these for getting the relaxation we need at various times and in various combinations, the key here is to have enough time to wait on God in the glorious change of circumstances until He shows up. I know it was a luxury to take such time, but He did show up. How we needed it.
I took a long, deep drink from the cup of serenity in those beautiful places and received the rest that that kind of solitude, beauty, and seeking produces. It quenched my parched being, straightened my crippled limbs.
So no more “vacations,” seeking momentary freedom from responsibility and the beauty of the earth alone. That’s not enough. Making Him the center as we restored, He pulled out the dregs and poured in crystal, clean waters.
Restoring the soul is about untying the knots of the past. You just can’t enjoy the future until you take time to deal the past.
Maybe this sounds over simplistic for the Christian who considers that he IS seeking God in every way possible with or without green pastures and quiet streams. All I have to say is there is a different kind of seeking that happens when you are just too tired to move or turn over, when you get so tired you almost don’t care. You know you can’t drum anything up. It HAS to be God and Him alone. That kind of desperateness God answers.
It’s sooooo good. Take enough time to wait on God in the right circumstances that He shows up in a big way and obey His promptings as He will begin to clean house. Truly…
He restores my soul. Not the green pastures or the quite waters, but He alone restores my soul.