Follow me on Twitter @revbrock

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rest, Rest

This week has been awful. Firstly, I’m never a big fan of tax day; I usually have to write a painful check to the IRS because I can’t seem to get my withholdings straight even though I’m a mathematician. Secondly, the Boston Marathon bombing[1] brought back all-too-familiar emotions of helplessness, anger, and sorrow from tragedies in the past. I felt depressed because of the evil that seemed so dark and deep at that time. Thirdly, the explosion[2] in West, Texas deepened my sadness; I lived in a small community not far from West for seven years and know some of the volunteer firefighters who responded to that disaster, putting their own lives in danger. These things, these dramatic events, served to compound the usual stresses of life to a point that I thought I might burst for all the sorrow.

It is too much to bear. Poisoned envelopes[3] sent to politicians by Elvis impersonators, the wanton abuse of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting as political props[4], the fear and patriotism mixed in every emotional singing[5] of the Star Spangled Banner… It seems that there is nowhere to simply sit and rest for a moment.

Not resting is exactly our response to these events. After Boston, scores of runners pledged to hit the pavement in honor of those fallen and injured at the Marathon. After West, thousands of volunteers are lending assistance and aid to that wonderful community. After Newtown, legislation upon legislation has been written and debated. Even after these bills fail, the victims pledge to maintain their energies and press onward.

Please understand: I am certainly in favor of running for a cause or lending aid to devastated communities. I am certainly a fan of writing and passing sensible legislation that helps communities avoid such disasters in the future. But there is something about the moments of disaster themselves that makes me want to sit and rest for just a moment.

I think of my friend Brian Robert, a volunteer firefighter in central Texas who responded to the disaster in West. I can imagine him, roused from rare moment of rest after teaching chemistry and physics all day, to respond to a growing catastrophe. I can imagine him, with no hesitation, running toward the sounds of horror and fear and fire. I can imagine him with sweat and blood and soot on his face as I’ve seen him times before. Brian would have stayed and helped as long as he could, and afterward would have collapsed for a rest as brief as possible before waking and finding other heroic ways to help.

I know from the years I watched Brian and others like him work that these men and women do not take time to rest their bodies, much like the rest of us take time to rest our souls.

We need to take a moment to rest our souls, but this is painful work. It is somehow less painful to lace up our shoes and run miles and miles to honor the wounded; or somehow more soothing to respond to shootings with political fervor and social action. These are good things, but I fear that they allow us, when embraced too quickly after tragedy, to mask the spiritual trauma that we’ve endured.  The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Tommy Deal, in the wake of violent storms in the Midwest, reminded[6] his Facebook community that “…are not first responders, as much as our adrenaline pumps and wants us to.” In our haste to help we could miss an opportunity to heal.

Before we text our donations, before we organize marathons to symbolize our support, before we hastily write legislation that overreaches, hear the words of Scripture, words or rest and peace: “…He leads me to green pastures and quiet waters; He restores my soul…even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil.”[7]

The Christian understanding of rest and peace are at the heart of our hope and the motivation for all of our good works. We live in a world that is caught between the reality of God’s redeeming activity through Jesus Christ and the awful reality of evil in our presence. When the latter becomes too close, too real, and too painful, let us not be too hasty to “move on;” let us be mature enough to find a moment of peace and rest that the promises of God’s redemption can restore our own souls.

Remember, friends, that it is the promise of God that evil will be real, that pain and disaster will be real until the day of the Lord. Without getting too emotional, try to read the words that will be read all over the world this Sunday:

“For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."[8]

Every tear. Every one. Even those that mark the soot on the face of my hero and friend. Rest. Rest.

[7] Psalm 23.
[8] Revelation 7:15-17.

No comments:

Post a Comment