I fidget. I consider it more a vice than a virtue. As soon as I wake up my mind revs up its engines with all the tasks on my to-do list. Some nights I cannot get my mind to shut off. Quiet and stillness make me feel guilty; after all, there’s always something productive that I could do, and I won’t get those precious seconds back. So instead of resting in the stillness and quiet, I fidget.
I don’t really know, then, why I said yes to an invitation for my wife, Annie, and me to attend the Rhythms of Rest retreat at Lake Junaluska for a few days with several other Southeastern faculty/staff couples. Perhaps it was the fact that we had moved to Wake Forest just a few months before, and I was weeks into my first semester of teaching. We were understandably tired and needed the rest. However, “rest” in the retreat’s title did not necessarily mean “sleep.” Our leader, Pastor Larry Trotter of North Wake Church, explained that this would be a time to retreat in solitude with our Lord. We would rest in communion with him. We would have several hours of solitude with the Lord, followed by several hours as a couple alone with him, and concluding with several hours in a group sharing our testimonies of what we did and learned in those preceding hours.
Quiet and stillness for several hours? Suddenly I became fidgety again. What would I do to fill up hours? How could I be still? I prayed for wisdom and for a quiet heart. I realized that I was approaching this in an absolutely wrong way. The goal was not for me to do something, but to be with someone, the Living God. In my first hours alone with him, I decided to be quiet. I did not say a word. I just sat in silence with him, recalling the words from the psalmist—
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence;
for my hope is from him (Psalm 62:5).
In the silence, the Lord worked on me. Why don’t I relish time with him? Why am I so quick to run to the next thing? As I continued that day and the other days, the Lord exposed me to my problem: I had depersonalized him in my mind and heart. I saw time with him more as another work project to complete than as communion with the Trinity. I lost the amazement that the Father made up his mind before the ages began to adopt me into his family (Ephesians 1:4-6). I lost the amazement that the Son “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20), that he is personally praying for me as he sits at the Father’s right hand (Romans 8:34). I lost the amazement that the Spirit is personally dwelling in me, actively transforming me into the glorious image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). This Triune God has moved in heaven and earth throughout history so that we could enjoy fellowship forever, to the praise of his grace.
How could I be so fidgety when the Most High wants me in his presence? Why would I be so short with the One who would never leave nor forsake me? Why do I seemingly only draw near to him in case of emergency? The Lord had me quiet and still. There, at Lake Junaluska, the Lord personally got my attention.
One day, Annie and I walked up to a high point at the retreat, where a tall, white cross stood over the entire area. As we sat under the cross, I tried to take in the panoramic sight of the mountains and the lake when the Lord reminded me:
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of the waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs (Psalm 65:5-8).
Indeed, as David sings, “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts” (Psalm 65:4)! My Lord—the One who established these mighty mountains—has brought me near! He wants me close, not as a guest in his house, but as a son. But what about my sins? “When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions” (Psalm 65:3). There under the cross I was brought to tears.
I’ve prioritized extended time with the Lord much more since then. He’s shaping my affections toward him. I rest in him, embracing the quiet and stillness. And, at least in my time with him, I no longer fidget.