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Rest in Christ

First slide

My friend Mrs. Berry used to say that a change is as good as a rest. In hindsight, I think this was her way of convincing herself that a vacation was restful despite the fact that every mother knows that family vacations (let’s just call them “family trips” instead) are usually a whole lot of the same work as at home, only in a different location with a bunch of people who are disoriented by changes in schedule and environment. A change is rarely anything like a rest.

My family has had a whole year of change. Like most of the world, our work and school rhythms changed. Our social patterns changed. And, for us, our entire home was packed up and shipped out to another state where we found ourselves feeling very much like we’d landed in Oz, bewildered by the strange newness of it all.

It was a lot of things. A rest it wasn’t.

Whether your challenge is a move, or a new season of parenting, or an unexpected job change, or a “vacation” that is full of challenges and disappointments, maybe you’re finding it difficult to be loving and patient — and holy — right now. Maybe you’re discouraged because you recognize your sin even as it’s happening, but you’ve reached the end of yourself and you just can’t seem to love people the way you truly want to love them.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to conjure love up all on your own. You are not the creator of love. When you reach the end of yourself and you whisper the faintest of prayers heavenward, they are heard by the God who is love himself. You don’t have to try harder to love better. You don’t have to make loving your family a project to be mastered. You don’t — you can’t — manufacture love.

Try to remember that. The next time you’re feeling intense shame because you fell short of the glory of God, try to remember that you have never been charged with creating love. You can reject those feelings of failure and shame. You can repent and know that you are forgiven. And then you can take action based on God’s truth. God tells us he loves us enough to lay down his life for us. God says we are heirs to his kingdom, reflections of his glory and his dearly beloved children. We are cherished and chosen.

It is up to us to accept that love. It’s up to us to recognize that shame is a lie and the father of lies often whispers into our doubts and our failures and blows them up larger than life. But we can reject the shame and ask the Holy Spirit to shed light on dark places and to let holy love heal. We don’t have to strive for love. God loved us first. We don’t have to be lovely to be loved by him. He’ll willingly come into the dark places and light them with love that purifies and sanctifies.

To love well, we need to have a true relationship with Christ — not a “try harder” relationship: an “I surrender” relationship. When we abide in the God who loved us first and we let the Holy Spirit teach us how to love as he does, love flows from there. We don’t have the innate ability to love well, but he always will, and we can love through him. We can access the power, and love, and sound mind that is Christ’s.

The real rest we need? It’s the rest of surrender, the rest of abiding in the God who loved us first. No matter how much change swirls around you, there is rest in Christ, and then there is love in rest. 

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Connecticut. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021

@elizabethfoss