It feels like a long time since I’ve written here. Really written, I mean. The kind of writing where my heart beats in every word, where by the end, I’m breathless and satisfied…like after a good long run.
Coming here today, coming here to write and pour out my heart feels like arriving home from a long journey. And, y’all this semester has been one long journey. I feel like I’ve both conquered mountains and crawled across the desert, desperate for a cool drink of water. There have been days when I thought my heart would burst from fullness – of love, energy, and compassion. And then there have been days where I have been fully depleted, not a drop of anything coming out of this well-wrung towel.
I’ve been processing all that has happened between leading retreats, bible study, launching a book, taking care of friends and family and Advent has provided the perfect season in which to do this. As I watch leaves fall from trees, the grass become dormant, and animals preparing themselves for winter, I hear God profoundly:
But the problem is, I seriously suck at resting. Since, however, I do not want to be into a forced rest because my body just gives out on me, I’ve committed to practicing rest. So, I’ve been practicing, failing, practicing, succeeding, and practicing some more.
Many of you know, I’m a recovering food addict. In order to make a lasting change with my relationship with food, I had to ask God why I had such an unhealthy relationship with it. One day, I went on a walk and I thought hard about why I ate, what I ate, and all my emotions associated with food. By the end of the walk, God revealed two things to me that profoundly altered the way I lived.
- If I felt there would not be enough food for me to have seconds, or a very full first plate, I would have anxiety. I have never starved a day in my life. This was not about a fear of a food shortage. The root of this anxiety was this: Food had stood in the place of love and security in my mind. The real fear was that I would not be loved or secure enough.
- I would have to practice letting go of momentary physical comfort in order to practice spiritual fullness. God wanted to show me that eating what my body needed led both to lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual satiation. The less I tried to comfort myself with tangible things, the more I could find love and security in Him. Food was filling my God-shaped hole.
During my runs and my quiet times, I’ve asked God to speak to me about rest as He did with food. These have been much longer, harder conversations. Every time I feel like I see the whole picture, He takes me down yet another avenue to explore. Though this journey has been difficult at times, I have felt enormous grace because all He has asked me to do is practice. And with practice, to get good at anything, means sometimes we will succeed. Sometimes we will fail. But we can always try again.
Practice. This might just be my new favorite world.
Today on my run, I was thinking about addictions – porn, food, work, alcohol, whatever – and this thought came to me:
When I am uncomfortable with myself, I seek comforts from this world.
When I am not sure of my identity in Christ, I seek assurance from this world.
When I am focused on serving myself, I in no way can serve God with a heart that is pleasing to Him.
This seemed to be the second half of the puzzle I’d been working on for a few weeks. I asked God about #OperationRest (my code name for this season – you may have seen this on our FB page) and jotted down my questions:
- Who do I want to be?
- Who does God want me to be?
- How am I made to be?
Then I asked, Do the first 2 questions have to have the same answer or does #2 become the foundation for #1? I closed my eyes and waited for God to respond.
Read Psalm 127.
“Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to His loved ones.”
If I believe that God’s plans for me are good, if I believe that they are to give me hope and a future, then all that extra stuff I am doing to try to become something that is outside of His will for me, is useless. It causes anxiety. I may not be working for good food, but I am working for the self-assurance that I am good enough.
During the book launch, when I was overwhelmed with writing and interviews, rankings and ratings, God spoke: Jen, stop trying to make all these paths for the book. I will make the paths, then you walk the way I have laid out for you.
Did I listen the first time? No.
Was I full of anxiety and weariness and excuses? Yes.
I practiced. I failed.
So now, I’m practicing again. And when I begin to feel anxious that I am not doing enough, I ask myself: Am I walking the path He laid or am I trying to forge my own? Am I resting in His provision or toiling away in anxiety? Is the burden light or is that machete in my hand making it all seem laborious and heavy?
If you would like to practice rest with me, there are a couple of ways to do this.
- Join us on Facebook and post any #OperationRest revelations or accomplishments. Need an example? Here are some I have posted:
- Today’s Advent reading from Jean Wise’s book asks the question, “This year, who are we in the story of Bethlehem?” So I asked God, “What is my role this year? So many good things to be…Mary, Joseph, one of the three wise men.” And He said, “Jen, you are a sheep. Watch and follow Me.” Convicting. Humbling. And just what I need. #OperationRest #Advent
- 20 minutes until the kids get home. Keep writing (working) or read a pleasure book so I’ll be in a good place to love my kids? Choosing #OperationRest.
- During the first quarter of the year, Lisa Smith and I will be writing about rest and how God is helping us to practice this in our lives at the #SDGGatherings. Our goal is to encourage everyone in this community to find rest and have a place that is conducive to conversation – because releasing what keeps us from rest can be very, very hard.
On Wednesday, Melissa Smallwood shares “When Sex Hurts: How to Have Intimacy in the Face of Chronic Pain.”
On Friday, Lanette Haskins share her journey through the emotional trauma of abortion in her piece, “Scarred by Abortion, Healed by His Grace.”
SDG Gathering Important Information
Lisa Smith and Jen Ferguson facilitate our #SDGGatherings each week. Lisa visits those of you who link up on “even” numbers and Jen visits the “odd.” We do have some important housekeeping items about this gathering, so if you have not read them, please come here to catch up. The condensed version: Link up ONE post that shares your heart authentically and be sure to check in with some of your sisters who have linked up with you. Leave a heartfelt word of encouragement for them after you visit their space. This is a community where we actively seek to get to know each other.