Rest With Us

"So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said:
       "Rise up, O Lord!  Let Your enemies be                      scattered,
        And let those who hate You flee before You."
And when it rested, he said:
       "Return, O Lord,
        To the many thousands of Israel."
                        - Numbers 10: 35-36 (NKJV)

God had rescued the people of Israel from Egypt.  They were on their way to the promised land. - and they had the most interesting way of getting directions.

The presence of God was dwelling with them in a tent called the Tabernacle - by day it looked like a cloud; by night it looked like fire.  When the cloud lifted, and began to move - they followed it.  When it stopped, they stopped.  The Bible tells us that "whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would remain encamped and not journey; but when it was taken up, they would journey." (Numbers 9:22 NKJV)  

It struck me this morning what a very simple way to follow God this is - and how much more complicated we make it some days.

The children of Israel knew generally where they were going.  But they didn't spend 40 years wandering aimlessly in the desert to get there.  There was purpose and intentionality to their movements - but it wasn't purpose and intentionality they brought to the plan - it was God's directions they followed.  Sometimes they journeyed and sometimes they camped - and sometimes it was two days and sometimes it was a year.  God alone knows why His directions were what they were - but He had his reasons, and Israel's job was to journey and camp as they were directed.  So they followed the Presence - and in the end, came to the place they were meant to be.

How often do I try to depend on my own strengths, my own gifts, and my own ability to figure things out in an attempt to get where I think I'm going?  When really, those strengths, gifts and abilities aren't truly mine to begin with, but a gift in the first place?  And when really, what's needed isn't a plan, but the willingness to follow where He's leading (or not leading) that day - regardless of whether or not I know the reasons for what we're doing in that day?  I spend so much time trying to sort it all out, making it far more complicated than it needs to be, when what I really need to do is to "cease striving and know that [He] is God." (Psalm 46:10a NASB).

I love how Eugene Peterson re-worded what Moses said in Numbers 10:36 of the Message Paraphrase:

"And when the Chest was set down, he would say:
       "Rest with us, God.
        Stay with the many,
        Many thousands of Israel."

Rest with us, God.

Oh, would You come and do that today?  Would you come and rest with us, and teach us to rest in You?

Life Lessons From Zumba: #3 - It Doesn't Always Go Well

One of the things Zumba class requires is a great deal of energy.  (In case you're not familiar with Zumba, it's mostly Latin dance steps mixed in with a good blend of aerobics, kickboxing and hip hop.)  It's super-fun - unless you walk into class utterly exhausted.  If you walk in tired - well, be prepared.  Zumba will kick your ... um.  Well, let's just say it won't likely go all that well.

Today was one of those days when Zumba just didn't go well.  I walked in already tired.  I thought several times about just cutting out early - and honestly, today, I didn't stay because of what people would think if I left.  I think I stayed mostly to see if I could.  And I did actually make it all the way through the class.

But let me tell you: there were some less than stellar moments.  I tripped more than once.  There were dances and steps I just couldn't seem to master today - even though none of them were new.  I made so many mistakes, and found myself relying more heavily than usual on the instructor's encouragement and smiles.  (She's really awesome that way.)  I had to remind myself to smile.  It wasn't fun, most of the time today.  It was work, and it was exhausting, and it was very hard to remember that the point is to have fun and keep moving as I watched myself make error after error.  For some reason, most of my injuries from my bike accident chose today to be achy, which affected my concentration and added to the discouragement I felt.  There were a few moments here and there when I found something positive to focus on - things like "my Zumba shoes are really cute" or "I didn't trip that time" or enjoying the camaraderie that exists between those of us who have been taking this class together for awhile.  But mostly it was just a long haul for an hour, and I was glad when it was over and I could retreat to the introvert heaven that the rest of this day has been.

And life's like that.  There are days when you get up and everything just seems to go wrong.  You wake up tired, you push too hard, you overcommit, and your responsibility streak won't let you drop things you promised you'd do because people are counting on you, even tho dropping them would be the best possible thing for you.  You forget things - important things - and it affects other people negatively.  (Which makes you feel worse.)  You make mistakes, and you say the wrong things and you send text messages you shouldn't send.  Your emotions get out of control and you spew negativity. People don't respond the way you wish they would and old wounds surface and try to declare themselves unable to heal, ever.  Life seems suddenly overwhelming and obstacles insurmountable.

But the truth is: it isn't and they're not.  You can do this.  You just need to give yourself a little grace.  Be okay with not being perfect.  Be okay with not getting it right all the time.  Trust in His grace.  And trust your friends to love you enough to be gracious to you even when you're having a rotten day and not being the best version of yourself.

And call it when you need to.  Check out.  Take a nap.  Read a book (for fun).  Watch a movie.  Take another nap.  Be an introvert.  Ask God to speak.  Listen for His voice.

And know that while it doesn't always go well (welcome to life on a fallen planet) - there will be other days and other dances, and life isn't going to permanently kick your anything.  You'll get back out there, and it will be fun again.