Choose rest. This phrase is everywhere right now, emblazoned on mugs and novelty socks and faux-aged farmhouse signs, slipping its way into the vernacular with very little thought given as to what it really means.
See, there’s a big difference between choosing when to rest, and choosing to have an attitude of rest. The former retains control over how and when (we’ll decide); the latter is a posture of surrender to the life God has given to us now, in this very place and time.
As an introvert and a lover of my home, I thought I had a handle on this. “I’m okay with rest,” I would have answered if asked; “I’m fine with downtime, with hobbitesque weekends burrowed away.” “Ask me anytime,” I would have said, “and I’ll gladly acquiesce to expanding margin and simpler schedules.”
But when Lochlan was born prematurely, everything changed.
When he was discharged from NICU under strict orders to keep his tiny self and his miniature immune system at home away from potential illnesses, I realized my relationship with rest had been operating under my own self-written rules. Rest on my terms. Time off when it’s convenient to me. Hygge when everything is perfectly organized and cleaned and I decide to take a break. A staycation weekend when it’s been strategically chosen for its minimal disruption to productivity. A morning alone blocked out for restful writing, with no one interrupting me.
My idea of rest actually looked a lot like control.
Yet true, Christ-centered, rest lies not in control, but in surrender — in an ever-loosening grip on our tightly-drawn parameters for rest. It means choosing an attitude of contentedness, even on days and in situations we wouldn’t necessarily opt to stay at home.
Because of Lochlan’s prematurity, this is the winter of hibernation. (I’ve even started an Instagram hashtag for it.) I’m not trekking around with two kids in the car. I’m not introducing Lochlan to friends over coffee. I’m not attending any extra events. Unlike last autumn, we’re not driving into Nashville for field trips to the symphony, or taking daytime outings to the science center. Josiah runs all the errands now, so Lochlan can avoid places like grocery stores where he might he exposed to respiratory illnesses. And this situation requires sacrifice beyond our own home, too: for the first time in about a dozen years, we’re not booking airfare and pulling our suitcases down for Christmas with family. (We are, quite literally, staying behind with the luggage: 1 Samuel 30:26)
Oh, fear. Such an ugly, unwanted, unwelcome invader.
Just as true rest can’t settle in alongside control, it’s also impossible to adopt a posture of restfulness when gripped with fear. If we’re to fully rest, we must learn to trust God — deeply, completely, courageously, even in the face of what scares us.
Since our little preemie was given to us, there’s been a lot of reasons to be scared.
Lochlan is an ancient name, one given to Norse warriors when they lived among the Scots-Irish. Ambrose means “immortal”. And so Lochlan Ambrose is our immortal warrior, our death-defying fighter (glory be to God).
It’s easy to make the obvious connection between his powerful name and his NICU fight — a tiny warrior nestled in an isolette, given life-saving, Nobel-prize-winning, surfactant to open his lungs. But behind the scenes, a different war rages — one within me, one against fear. I’ve fought this battle all year.
Fear every time the doctor searched for sound waves with the Doppler.
Fear when he was diagnosed with arrhythmia and possible defect in the ductal arch of his heart, and sent for a fetal echocardiogram.
Fear when he was born, purple, grunting, his tiny chest caving in as he gasped for oxygen.
Fear when we went home from the hospital and left him behind, covered in sensors and wires and tubes.
Fear every time I stand back from the crowds and drop Aveline at co-op and hear a child coughing in the hall.
But fear has no place in rest. Fear bears no good fruit. Fear must go. Fear cannot abide here with me in this winter of hibernation. (2 Timothy 1:7)
I choose rest — not as the world chooses, but as God gives.
I choose rest — not the hand-picked spa-day kind of rest, but the kind of rest that’s so deeply rooted in trust and in faith and perfect love, that there’s no room for anything else but God’s unshakeable peace.
And so here’s to a winter of transformation —
of choosing an attitude of rest,
of letting go of control, and
of watching as God kicks fear to the curb.
May His name be glorified!