Rest

Today is Day 45. I quit smoking six weeks ago. After nearly 50 years I decided to stop. Yay, right? Of course it’s easier said than done. In fact it’s been rather unpleasant but not in the ways it was 12 years ago when I only tried to. Some would say I’m cheating by using nicotine patches, but it makes sense to me: it’s not so much the nicotine but the habit, the routine, the pattern that is so hard to move past. So I’m supporting myself with the patches while I work on creating a new rhythm to life.

And THAT is very hard to do. It’s the empty spaces that are so tough. And I have too many of them. I’m sort of retired, meaning that I work as much as I want to and make my own schedule. But sadly I still have to work, having been financially childish for a long time. Still, I only work about 20-25 hours a week. In fairness, in my particular line of work this is about all one can do. 30 would be a killer and I would almost certainly burn out. 25 is just right; it provides good income but affords enough time to decompress. It is also sustainable week in and week out. Mostly. But there are the inevitable cancellations and no-shows that make my head explode. Not really, but it throws off my rhythm and I don’t like that.

I noticed one night, after several nights of poor sleep, that I was once again struggling to sleep and worried that lack of sleep was feeding the anxiety I was experiencing during the day. And I have never been an anxious person. Depressed? Sure, but never anxious. This new anxiety presents as real physical pain in my chest, sometimes to the point of feeling like I’m having a heart attack. I know I’m not but damn it’s uncomfortable. It passes, and I notice the sense of quiet – like I feel right now – as the counterpoint to the discomfort.

As I lay there, worrying about not sleeping, trying my best to find some thread of thought to hold onto, it occurred to me that sleep was not going to happen and what was it that I really wanted? After wandering about for a bit the word “rest” dropped in. Yes, that was it, what I wanted. To rest. I was reminded of a time, years ago, when I was first attending a men’s Bible study. I was asked to lead the discussion the following week on Hebrews 4 (I think?) and I was scared to death. The idea that confounded me was “rest” and what that meant. I fumbled through it but that night, laying there sleepless, I understood.

I set aside, laid down, any concern for sleep or for that matter anything else. I was unconcerned, I had done all I could for now and that was it. I ceased to need anything; I only needed to rest.

And so I did.

The irony of need is remarkable. When we learn to let go of need, knowing that God will provide what is necessary to serve His purposes, we are able to rest, to lay down the burdens and not worry. Worry never solved anything, need only occasionally. Check in with yourself and find where need is creating the ironic barrier and set it aside. Rest.

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