by: Joel Bates
As we sang together atop the bluff and enjoyed the coolness of pale moonlight, even the whippoorwills stopped their incessant melody, although I believe their quiet was less a concession to us and more their being shushed by a mighty power. Our audience, the Host of this outing, wasn’t interested in the second-rate singing of the birds. He wanted to listen to our genuine, uninterrupted praise. In that moment, I sensed my own relief and surrender. Despite my earlier misgivings—I was too busy to be here—I had obeyed, and now I knew pure joy.
Spring preparation for summer camp programs keeps our staff busy. It often seems like there’s not enough of a lot of things, chiefly time. This scarcity drives me to work harder, feel more anxious, and lose my cool when projects develop snags and workers are unable to get the job done within my predetermined parameters.
Basically, it’s the most inconvenient time to take a holiday, but the Lord had been pestering me for days with an invitation to get away with the camp staff and go rock climbing. I knew this was not just my own fantasizing—a convenient excuse to shirk responsibility and go have a lark—due to the mounting pressure to have everything ready. Ready for what? For Discovery Ministries to take people to exciting, beautiful, wilderness places to be challenged, grow as the body of Christ, and glorify God. I would be creating this unique experience for others, so shouldn’t I afford the time to practice it myself?
Sometimes in the midst of our striving for God, we lose the objective and settle for lesser pleasures. We work to satisfy our own agendas and yearn to make the most of our time, according to our own definition of “most.” Thankfully, Abba had been persistently reminding me that He is the Author of time. Apparently, He thought I had time to draw away and climb Arkansas crags, time to be challenged, time to draw together with other believers, and time to glorify Him. It was an earnest invitation from a loving God to a weary son. It’s funny how I felt almost guilty mentioning it to the rest of the hard working, busy staff. I think we all wondered if it was the wisest choice considering the mountain of work awaiting us.
God can relate because He’s been there. Jesus, in His finite body, modeled how to balance carrying out the most demanding work with the highest of stakes and the need for rest within our limited amount of time. Though He worked tirelessly among the needy of Israel, He often called His disciples to follow him to quiet solitary places, to cross over to the other side of the lake, or to join Him for a festive meal. These times in Jesus’ life help us reconcile ourselves to the fact that the God-man held within His agenda the need to draw away for rest, celebration, and intimacy with His closest followers and with His heavenly Father as a priority.
Jesus was committed to this rhythm, and He invites us to follow His example. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus gives us this summons: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
The camp staff and I had decided to accept God’s invitation, and we weren’t sorry. We enjoyed the feel of rough, sandstone handholds on our supple fingers as we climbed warm rock in the temperate spring air under deep blue skies. In the evening sitting around the campfire, we told stories of God’s goodness and of past victories, warmed less by the heat radiating from dancing flames and more by remembering God’s faithfulness. I felt a mixture of emotions and grew sober when I considered that I almost didn’t accept God’s offer. I so often dismiss His kindness as I search for what He wants of me, all but striking R&R from the agenda in my quenchless quest to do the will of God. I was so glad that despite myself, I had accepted His invitation this time.
It’s important to discover that the Judge of humanity, Artisan of the cosmos, Definer of reality and truth wants nothing more sometimes than to draw us close to Him and just play, rest, worship, and enjoy life together. Perhaps it’s good to remember that when we are the busiest for God, it is the perfect time to accept the Authority of the Ages’ invitation into a closeness with Him. It is the perfect time to lay down our to-do list and take up His. After all, when we spend time with the Author of time, we find that there is enough time!
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.