He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
Has your drivenness ever taken you beyond what’s healthy?
Earlier this year I was in Florida for a short retreat for soul rest and prayer. I keep things very unstructured during these times, focusing on stillness with Jesus and time to enjoy God’s beauty in nature. I spent my last full afternoon birding in some beautiful state parks. It was a blast. But I’ll be honest, when I'm identifying new birds I've never seen before, it can become a bit like a sport. And for someone like me, there is the tendency to go a little overboard (Yes, obsessive birding. Just roll with it).
Near the end of the day, after talking with another birder, I was told there was a special bird that had been seen nesting nearby. It’s rare in the US, and it’s called a Crested Caracara. Great name, right?! The crested caracara is only found in a tiny bubble of Florida and south Texas. And I was in the bubble, people!
Immediately I went looking all over the spot that I was told it had been appearing, but with no luck. At dusk I drove back to my lodging, wishing I had caught a glimpse.
The next morning I woke up with a couple of hours before flying home. I had carved out that morning to be still and invite Jesus to prepare me for the crazy months I was heading into.
But you know that the little voice in my head was saying?
You should go chase the crested caracara! That would be awesome to accomplish before you leave!
Have you noticed that there is always another task on the to-do list and always another adventure to go on? There’s always the next thing crying for our attention. Our lives of full of choices about what to pursue next. Some are fun, and some are obligatory. Either way, in the midst of the next pursuit, we have this tendency to steamroll the practices that we say matter the most to us. We want to rest in God, but there’s always a crested caracara out there to chase after.
We are getting deeper into Lent. You have every reason on earth to start chasing whatever your crested caracara might look like as the spring emerges. The honeymoon is over and those grand lent ideas of growing closer to God have given way to the to do lists. Amirite? Maybe they are fun, and maybe they are work. Certainly, many of our pursuits are worthwhile and honoring to Jesus. But do we understand when the best pursuit is to simply be still with God? When do we prioritize the deep places in our souls that need attention?
In our community this week we reflected on the phrase in Psalm 23:3, "He renews my strength." David imagines what happens when he rests under God’s loving care. That phrase in Greek can literally mean: he returns me to my substance.
God offers us limits of time and energy as a gift, not a constraint. We are given permission to stop endlessly chasing what’s next. We are encouraged to take a break from getting that next item checked off our list, however exciting or exhausting it may be. What good is it to gain the whole world if we lose our substance?
Beyond the voice pushing you to chase the next thing, there is another voice voice within you, spoken by the one who made you. That voice is trying to restore you to your substance. That voice is suggesting that you are allowed to dwell for a bit with no agenda but being loved.
You are invited today to breathe deeply.
You are invited to sit with Jesus.
Maybe we even need to make appointments with God on our calendars to help us move beyond the language of presence and into the practice of presence.
Is there something today that can wait until another time, so you can dwell in God’s restoring rest for a few moments?
In a rare victory of spirit that day, I didn’t chase after the crested caracara when Jesus was inviting me to be still and listen. I don’t regret that decision. You won’t either.
Jesus, return me to my substance today.