I started blogging nine months ago. Before that I had been reading the blogs of a select few women: Ann Voskamp and some women from (in)courage. One of the women who had caught my heart from the beginning was Bonnie Gray. Every time she was a featured blogger for (in)courage, I would sit up and listen. Her story was unfolding in a very different way when I "met" her. She had been an outwardly successful woman and a prolific writer on the verge of writing a book when she was ambushed by a panic attack and subsequently diagnosed with PTSD as a result of latent childhood traumas she endured.
When I started my own blog, I began joining Bonnie every Thursday in what she then called her "Faith Jam" where she would lay out a writing prompt and we would write our own posts in response to the prompt and then link them up with her. Her prompts and her writing have always dared me to go deeper and further and to be more vulnerable than any other. I call my writings from those link ups "Courageous Writing" because it takes some guts to put the inner world out there for the whole world to see.
I'm strong enough for that now. I wasn't always.
A few months ago I had the amazing and humbling privilege of being invited to join Bonnie's "book launch" team. The book she has written was not the one she started out to write. Isn't that just like God! He knows where He has us headed (and half the time if He let us in on the secret we'd pull our covers up and not put one foot on the floor again ... but when we go through what it takes to walk into His vision, we are always the better for it). Being a part of the launch team I got a free copy of Bonnie's book to preview and agreed to help her by writing a review article on my blog. I was more than glad (eager!) to help in this way and figured I'd just breeze through the book and feel refreshed and reminded of the importance of rest, write my post and move on.
Well, let me tell you, this is not a book I am going to breeze through. Bonnie's book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, is not just a poetic look at rest (though it is that) or an invitation to a deeper walk with God (it is that too), it is her memoir of very painful childhood experiences and how God used the healing journey she has been on to bring her to a place of inner rest - whitespace.
At first blush this may seem idyllic and unrealistic or it may, to some of us, seem a bit self-focused. After all, isn't the Christian life about self-sacrifice, suffering and taking up our cross? Where does whitespace and rest come into that picture?
I've been thinking on this a bit, and as God often does, He has been echoing messages about rest into my life ever since I said, "yes" to Bonnie's invitation to join her launch team. Consider the idea of Sabbath. We aren't far into the Bible when God informs us that He rested on the seventh day. He doesn't say it once, He repeats it as though to say -- "Get this: I rested." It was on the seventh day, the day of completion, when God rested and set apart the day as holy, separate, special. Then, in the Ten Commandments, God calls on us to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Have you bought the lie that your value is in productivity? Do you feel the stirring of our modern culture which keeps us burning the candle at both ends, taking on more than we can chew and constantly trying to fill more roles in more relationships than is possible? You are not alone.
The concept of rest isn't only found in the Old Testament. Jesus went away to lonely places to rest - even at times when crowds clamored and people were in need of His touch. Maybe even especially then. The Trinity models rest after creation and Jesus models rest in the work of redemption. And we look at rest as for the weak. Jesus calls Himself "Our Sabbath" - He IS our rest. St. Augustine knew it well: "You have made us for Yourself, O, Lord, and our souls are restless until we find our rest in Thee." This is rest - the abiding relationship which allows us to lean into Jesus and trust. C.H. Spurgeon calls it having a "recumbant" relationship with God. It's like God is our easy chair and we can lean back because there is safety and comfort in Him.
This is rest: Letting Go. This is rest: Letting God. This is rest: sharing the easy yoke, learning from Him and knowing that He is gentle and humble of heart.
This is rest for our souls.
Why don't we find ourselves living in this rest more often? I have asked myself this very question for weeks now. Bonnie shares the answer in her book. To enter rest - the real inner rest - we must be brave enough to awaken the pain which blocks us from trusting and to move through the pain to the point of deeper intimacy. For me, intimacy has not always been safe. I have learned by default to keep myself safe and that means keeping you at arms length. But rest isn't found at arms length from God. We must risk being known; we must risk being seen; we must risk the tears and the ache and the grief which come in the course of real healing. When we come undone we are remade and restored. God does not leave us - no matter who else ever has. He is faithful to call us to rest and faithful to provide Himself as the answer to that call.
As Micheal Breen said, "We are not designed to rest from our work, but to work from a place of rest." We long for this inner place - our own sanctuary built in our heart which is the hiding place for us to commune with God. And from that place we can go out safely and be at rest in all that we do. The secret of soul rest is finding the easy yoke, allowing Jesus near enough to shoulder our burdens and letting go of the idea that we need to work to earn His approval or anyone else's. This invitation is repeated throughout Finding Spiritual Whitespace as Bonnie tells her story, shares her journey and gives prompts after each chapter to help us look deeper at what blocks us from rest. She leads us into creative ways to experience rest.
I hope you join us on this sabbath journey into greater intimacy with God. You will never regret saying "yes" to this invitation. I have a hunch it is the longing of your soul as it is the longing of mine as well. We were made for this and He who calls us to rest will provide as we come to Him.
Whitespace quote and Spiritual Rest quote are samples from Finding Spiritual Whitespace.
Photo of Bonnie from FaithBarista.com.