Monday, May 23, 2011

Ready for Rest

Right now, I'm laying on my bed back at the house where I grew up. No more blog posts will be written from my desk at Ozark. I took the last test of my undergraduate career last Thursday afternoon, and Saturday I donned my gown and mortarboard and walked across the stage to receive my degree, and then I stood on the outdoor basketball court and took pictures with all the weeping girls who will be distraught that I never married them, and then went home, and that was that.

It's always a nice feeling to be done with something. To finish a long novel. To watch the finale of a television series. To crawl across the finish line of a 5K. Or, in my case, to turn in your chapter identification test for your Revelation class and realize that there are no more papers to write, quizzes to study for, books to read, or dioramas to construct.

And in all honesty, I'm glad to be done. I need a break. I need some rest. It feels like I've had my head down and have been running as hard as I can for a long time, and now I can finally stop and breathe. I think it's been over a year and a half since I have had a true break--a few days in which I had no real responsibilities, nothing to work on, nothing to prepare for. I've been looking forward to the next couple weeks for a long time. I'll watch TV, read books that I want to read,  and take a nap and not feel guilty about it.

It all makes me wonder what it will feel like when I'm at the end of my life and I know that I'm almost done. Getting through Ozark was hard--probably the hardest thing I have ever done. But I feel like getting through life is an even more tiring process.

This is how far I was through this post before Sunday evening. This was supposed to be a fairly light post, talking about what I plan to do with my couple weeks of a break. But then I was given a startling reminder that even in periods of temporary rest, life continues to go on, and that life is so incredibly difficult.

Last night, a massive tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, the town that I have called home for the last five years. There's no need for me to give you many details; you can turn on the news to find out as much as I know. But from the latest report that I've seen, 116 people were killed in the storm, but that number could continue to rise. One student from Ozark lost her life. I've talked to friends whose apartments have been destroyed. The pictures I've seen are unreal, and those in Joplin that I have talked to have said that the devastation is terrible. It's an absolute tragedy, and it seems like a bad nightmare that this happened in a place so close to my heart.

Life is really difficult. It is a long, treacherous road. We get knocked down and beat up on the way. So what does it feel like to know that you're near the end of it? When I know that I'm close to death, what will I be saying? I hope that I'll be able to say, as Paul did, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Tim. 7-8). Paul had lived a tough life. He had gone through a lot. And at the end of it, I think he was ready to be done. He was anxious for some rest. He knew that he had given everything he had to Christ and his kingdom, and he was awaiting his reward.

People often postulate about what heaven will be like. I don't know exactly how it will be, other than that we'll be with Jesus. But I like to think that when I get there, God will say, "David, why don't you rest for a while. Take a break. Go enjoy a nap. You ran a good race, and now it's time for you to rest." That's what I hope for. We await that Sabbath-rest that Hebrews 4 promises us. And there won't be any more tornadoes. There won't be any more sicknesses. No more family quarrels. No more injustices. No more disasters. No more sadness. The race will be over. The fight will be finished. And we'll finally rest. We look forward to the day when we can say as C.S. Lewis does in The Last Battle, "The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."

And until then, we continue to run as hard as we can. We serve Christ in everything. We love and care for those around us. We rush into devestated neighborhoods to help in any way we can. We share Christ with our friends and families. We push on through every obstacle and stumbling block, chasing after the example of Christ, pushing forward to that crown that Paul mentions.

Pray for Joplin. Pray for the those who have lost loved ones. Pray for the injured. Pray for those who lost their homes and possessions. Find a way to give to help in the recovery of the city. One good way would be through my old church at Carterville. And as this race of life goes on, and trials and difficulties continue to batter us, pray the words of John from the end of Revelation:

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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