Finding rest for my soul

photo(7)Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths; ask where the good way is; and walk in it. Travel its path and you will find rest for your souls.”

~ Jeremiah 6:16

I have to admit, my favorite 12th Apostle shirt is Ready to Rock, the one with the verse from The First Book of Samuel about David stepping out to fight Goliath printed on the back.

Putting it on reminds me to step out in faith when it’s often easier for me to remain passive. It makes me feel like a spiritual tough guy even though, truth be told, I’m more  often like  a 98-pound weakling.

But for our recent vacation to Florida, I left my signature shirt at home and brought another.

When I looked out over the ocean at Panama City Beach last week, I was wearing our Crossroads shirt. Granted, the verse on the back from the Book of Jeremiah is really an admonishment to the people of Israel, pointing out that they’ve put aside the tried and true for the quick and simple and left God in the dust.

Still, even though at its core it is a “shape up or ship out” sort of statement from God’s prophet, it has a solid, restful quality to it that suddenly spoke to me more deeply. I felt compelled to bring the shirt and wear it often while I was away on vacation

I really needed this trip.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is pretty much perfect. I have a loving, Godly wife, a smart and funny daughter,  and a good job. We’re all healthy and our extended families are all well.

Still, I needed to see the sea. It’d been years and years since our little family left its familiar haunts and went out in search of the ocean.

Over that time, I had let the thousands of little responsibilities of modern life stack up around me. I had allowed business, one of the true enemies of a relationship with God, to become an idol.

I was overwhelmed with thoughts of bills, and hobbies and cars and deadlines, chores around the house I’d left undone, the thousands of things I needed to do but hadn’t even started on, all of which were trivial, nearly meaningless in the big scheme of things. The thoughts represented problems, but they were all minor. It was worry for worry sake, an unproductive behavioral ear-worm of sorts that had me pretty well trapped and feeling weak.

I had let all the chatter in my mind muddle my prayer life. I had ceased listening and prayer had become a one-sided conversation with me – the guy with the least important stuff to say – the one who wouldn’t keep his mouth shut. I rambled. I talked at God, not with Him.

So I sought out the beach and I wore my shirt.

As I waded out into the water, felt the waves slide past my legs, I began to relax. The surf muttered to me and the chatter in my head began to still. It was replaced with familiar memories of time spent by the ocean. The sounds of voices, long forgotten, echoed in my head making me nostalgic and content.

God helped me dump all the clutter. It didn’t happen all at once but it happened.  My daughter’s laughter, my wife’s smile and the wailing song of the seagulls culled away all the junk that had built up over the years.

I’m fair-skinned and nearly every time I stepped out from under our beach umbrella I glanced at the back of the shirt, and pulled it on, trying to be mindful of its message.  It smelled of sea salt and sunshine. When I sat on our balcony, looking over the sand and water, I would put the shirt on the railing to dry and point the words back at me so I’d see them and remember.

It was a grand vacation.

I read science-fiction on the beach. I dozed in the sun. My daughter and I played in the waves. My wife and I held hands while we strolled, the surf kissing our feet. All three of us were plowed under by waves and came up laughing and sputtering. I dug my heels in the sand and watched the sunset as the undertow pulled at me.

I talked to God and more importantly, I listened. And my soul found rest.

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