Rested, Restored, Forgiven

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M_RachelI thought I needed a rest.

My husband was working on his PhD in Comparative International Development Education and we went back to spend a year in the United States. An entire year. Roughly the grand total of our other visits over the last ten years.

They were ten beautiful, inspiring, wrenching, breaking years. Years of language learning and culture stripping, of living in four different countries. Years of emergency evacuations, mass flooding and drownings, thieves and kidnappings, loneliness and disappointment. Years of not knowing how to help, trying and failing, trying and succeeding.

They were years of stomach-cramping laughter and dance parties in dark, electricity-less living rooms. Years of shared meals and forgiveness asked and granted. Years of answered prayers and unanswered prayers. Years of God-healings and deep friendship, bonds formed through tears and vulnerability. Miracles and the needing-of-more-miracles. Years of seeing Jesus and experiencing Jesus and loving Jesus.

And at the end of them, I felt tired. I thought I needed a rest.

While my husband studied for his PhD and my kids learned how to navigate American public schools, I tried to rest. I had one year to get it all in, to fill in the holes and to store up extra for the return to Djibouti.

The pressure was on to get rest, so I did the things I love to do. Spent time with family. Drank coffee with friends. Sang loud in English at church. Took writing courses. Went to the library. Trained for marathons.

I thought I needed rest but on one of those twenty-mile training runs God showed me I needed something else. I was listening to a talk about Helen Roseveare. Helen spent her life in Africa too. She felt tired too. She thought she needed a rest too. She told her local coworkers that she was taking time away from the work at the hospital because she needed rest.

One of the other doctors said, “No, you don’t need rest Helen. You need a time of seeking forgiveness and restoration with the Lord.”

I stopped running. I rewound the sermon and listened to the line again. I typed it into my phone. I started running again, with tears.

So much brokenness and loneliness and questions without answers. Questions about suffering and pain and people I love. Questions about my weaknesses and God’s plan and what is the point of it all. Revelations of my selfishness and pride, my impatience, lack of faith.

I did need a break, but it wasn’t (only) so I could do things I enjoyed. It was so I could seek forgiveness, so I could pursue restoration with the Lord. So I could hear God’s voice speaking compassion and goodness into the hurting places. So I could feel his healing touch in the split-open spaces.

Not so I could return with faster marathon times or better book deals or memories of sweeter times with friends and family. So I could return secure in the knowledge that I am forgivingly and mercifully, grafted into the vine, that while I rest and abide, his fruitfulness will flow through me. So I could return with fresher, deeper, more immediate intimacy, rested, restored, forgiven. At the end of that year it was time to go home and start flourishing in the desert.

_________________

Image credit: shino

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Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones has written for the New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, EthnoTraveler, the Desiring God blog, and Skirt. She lives, writes, and runs in Djibouti with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.djiboutijones.com.
Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones

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