The Burning Bush of Rest
A few years ago I was challenged to slow down. I had been doing everything I possibly could in ministry and I was so excited about the things I saw as “open doors.” I remember the feeling and excitement of God’s presence and this season of celebration. It was amazing. There was a revival and renewal in my spirit. A parallel I now see is in the ministry of Jesus, when Jesus lived with miracles, signs, and wonders before his death on the cross. I felt so alive during this time and had the opportunity to do so many wonderful things in the Kingdom. I’m so grateful for those times. Like the disciples, I am in awe of the miracles and wonders of God, yet there is always a death which awaits. I have no doubt in what God can and will do. I have seen the impossible. I have experienced the incredible wonder, power, and life transformation of God. But it has not always been in the season of wonder and celebration I have seen this power and been changed. It has been in the season of quiet, stillness, stopping, and blocking out the noise I have seen the wonder of God and been challenged to stop and slow down to rest in the presence of God.
When I graduated from seminary and started ministering as a hospital chaplain, it was as if a season in life changed almost without notice. It has been five years in this season, and it has not felt easy. Most days have been filled with pain, going back and forth with unrealistic expectations I placed on myself about what “ministry” is, and a time of serious reflection in the midst of incredible vulnerability and true authenticity. I have been so honored to be with people during some of the most challenging and trying times of their life. I have sat with many in life and death. I have been with people and have gained so much wisdom and perspective about life and what truly matters in the end. This season has felt slow, intentional, and draining at times. I am learning about my needs and why I am in ministry. I realize now that some of the “ministry opportunities” I desired have lost their power and hold on my life. I realize now God could care less about me “achieving” something. It is about the process of transformation and reconciliation. It is about the relationship, less about the work. I used to quote the verse “be still and know that I am God.” Honestly though I do not know if I really knew what it meant to be still. Even now I struggle with the spiritual concept of stillness. We Oneness Pentecostals have not been very good about things like self-care, rest, Sabbath, relaxing, having fun, and resting in Jesus the Savior. There are a lot of Messiah Complex ministers out there who think they have to be and do everything to save the world. Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah. I am not. We are not. Slow down. Sit in the presence of God. Find rest. Stop trying to be and do everything. Ministry is not about being a superhero. Yes, we have a mission and a calling to help and serve people, but slowing down and resting in the presence of God is also our mission and calling.
I am reminded of the story of Moses before he went to retrieve the people of God from Egypt. What a call! He went up on the mountain where he could see out above the people. There are so many times God allows us to see a vision, but says stop and rest. For Moses, it was about stopping and resting with the burning bush. Scripture says he went to the mountain of God. How humbling to go to the mountain of God! What a mirror! God told Moses to take off his sandals for the place where he was standing was holy ground. This is such a vulnerable act. Moses is challenged not to run a race, or sprint a marathon, but to stand still with no shoes and receive a revelation and vision from God. It is in this place of quiet revelation God gives the vision. I can relate to this story, because there have been many times I have been challenged to be still, take off my shoes, wait, and rest in the presence of God. It must have been incredible to see a burning bush, but at the same time it was a moment for Moses to also see himself in the presence of God. God reveals much when we are willing to be vulnerable, sit with the burning bush of revelation, and recognize God as the: I AM. In this season, Moses did not minister, but became one to whom ministry was given. It is so humbling and so necessary. It can stop the cycle of running.
What does it mean to rest in the presence of God? For me, it has meant to leave my expectations (most of which are unrealistic and unhealthy) at the edge of the mountain. I’m taking off my “shoes.” I also leave some expectations from my church culture. For instance, the other day I was thinking about some of the dreams God has placed into my life. They have not been fulfilled and there are many days I realize the limits of the culture I exist within. It’s frustrating, trying, and difficult. I get angry at times because I want to push and pave a way for these dreams. No, I must rest. I must rest in the presence of God. I must wait. Rest.
For me, rest has been seeing the real me. When we truly sit in stillness, we are able to see the real, raw, imperfect, and vulnerable people we are. It is not always pleasant or pretty. There are so many parts of my being which need God’s light and wholeness. I am learning how to be content in the process. It’s not easy.
Rest has also meant to find balance. There are many who do not have balance in their “church” life. Everything is about religion and doing more, as if one could win salvation by their work and deeds. Many do not know how to say “no.” When our life is out of balance, things tend to happen to help us see we need more balance. We are challenged to “Stop.” We do not like stop signs. We do not like detours. We do not like it when there is a burning bush in front of us stopping us from walking forward. Many times we try to go around the bush, but going around only takes us off the path and leads us to different places which might not be holy ground. Stop. Rest. Rest is a part of your calling and ministry.
Another part of the rest for me has been to not let the resting, stopping, and holding space create bitterness within me. When you go to the wilderness, many do not follow you into that dark, uncertain, mysterious place. I’ve often longed for those who will travel with me into this season. The desert can be a lonely place, yet it is in this sacred place where distractions and busyness are forbidden we find the rest we so long for and need.
Finally, rest has also been about acceptance. It is about knowing God is with me and having the confidence and personal authority to know the dreams and callings of God continue to grow within and without me. I have recently begun to garden and take time to notice God more in creation. The plants I have planted are growing very slowly, yet some days it feels like they are blooming rapidly and quickly. The root process is slow. We need strong foundations, which take a long time to establish. I have come to realize this slowness as a quiet confidence in God. It is not a confidence to broadcast or say “look at me.” It is a quiet confidence turning attention toward God the focus of our worship, and it places within me acceptance, assurance, peace, hope, and security in knowing this place and season of rest is part of my calling and mission.
So, today I rest in my burning bush. Like Moses, I take off my shoes to see my limitations and boundaries. I listen to the voice of God, and remain quiet. It may not feel incredible and I might be afraid of the future, but I rest. I sit in the presence of God waiting, waiting not for a “calling” or “task,” but for a conversation and relationship with the Almighty God who loves me, cares for me, and cares more about me than any “thing” or “work” I will ever do.
2016 Copyright Crystal Schmalz