Like a Boy and His Rat

Tear stains on a Bible tell us that someone in grief fled to the God of all comfort.

Coffee stains on a Bible tell us that she sat with the Word over morning coffee—a date with God.

Rat-urine stains on a Bible tell us that . . .

Well, this is a story that tells how I find spiritual rest.


A fifth-grade boy arrived to Sunday School early, so we had time to chat.

“My rat peed on my Bible again,” he shared.

My first thought: Again? I imagined the scenario: he took the rat from its cage to play with and pet it. The rat, free to roam, then wandered onto the bookshelf and had an accident on the Bible.

Trying to be helpful, I suggested, “Maybe you shouldn’t let your rat on your Bible anymore.” (That just made sense to me.)

“Yeah, I guess I need to quit having quiet times with my rat.”

In my spirit, party-noisemakers rattled in loud celebration! Internal fireworks brought a joyful rush to my heart rate, for I thought not of the rank odor nor of the defaced, unsanitary reading material. I thought of the fact that this boy has quiet times! This boy feeds his hunger for God’s Word!

Rat urine on a Bible. I never knew the thought could thrill me so, but I was thrilled! That boy is well on his way, for even now he is getting to know God better through His Word.

(Don’t worry, he said the rat thing won’t happen again.)

I come to God every afternoon, sitting at His feet, eager for His Word in the Book open before me. This is how I find spiritual rest (just like the boy—minus the rat).


Fast-forward to several weeks later. I remembered this conversation again but this time wondered: What if this happened not with another person’s child in a church classroom, but with my own child in my own home? Would I have rejoiced?

I live with myself, and I know how it would have been. I would have been angry. I would have been annoyed at the mess. I would have been in a rage at the ruined Bible, the very special one that we presented to him upon entering first grade.

Thank God—truth hurts, but it also makes aware and, perhaps surprisingly, is another way to find rest for my soul. When I’m on the wrong path and God shows me the right one (and I follow), I go from inner tension and angst to peacefull stillness and rest. Obedience leads to rest.

Father, help me as I want to be the parent you want me to be. Help me rejoice in the blessings and to see the causes for celebration, even in the midst of ugly messes. Thank you for your mercy on me. Help me to see with Christlike vision.

And Father, thank You for the blessing of Your Word revealed to me, and for the fact that I can own and read the Bible openly and without fear. Thank you for the ways You give me rest.

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Resting in Obedience

“Spring Break” comes too late for my liking, so every year we take a week off in the winter. A winter break is one strategy to avoid the annual spring almost-burnout I used to experience.

Every year, we always take one week off in Febrary/March, and we always go to Grandma and Grandpa’s. It’s the ideal vacation spot: the price is right (free food and lodging); the boys get grandparent time (one highlight is getting to do the horse-poop chores with Grandpa!); I get to cook to my heart’s content and not do any dishes; and they live near The Black Canyon of the Gunnison (cross-country skiing!). On top of that, Ouray with its Hot Springs pool is only forty minutes away.

On day four of vacation I awoke in my in-laws’ guest bed, always nice and heavy with the warmest of blankets. The grandfather clock ding-donged 7:00 in the morning. Grandma was making her famous sourdough waffles (I could tell just by the sounds) while our boys played with Lincoln Logs and Legos (again, I could tell by the sounds). Yet in spite of these things, somehow my spirit felt stressed. How could this be? More than halfway through my longed-for winter break, I still felt an inner unrest. What was going on? Why the restlessness in an ideal situation of rest?

Thus says the LORD,
“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you shall find rest for your souls.”

(Jeremiah 6:16)

The promise is that I will find rest for my soul if I walk in the right and good way. That is, obedience results in soul-rest. The deepest rest follows obedience.

This, like much of what I find in the Bible, seems counterintuitive. Jesus said to take His burden and yoke, and then I will find rest. The result of a burden is rest?

Rest is not always what I think it is. Rest does not automatically happen when I remove myself from daily responsibilites and go to Mom and Dad’s. Rest does not require a getaway but can happen right in the middle of day-to-day tasks. My soul finds rest when I walk in God’s paths. I know, because thus says the Lord.

Father, I stand by Your ways. I see Your movings and doings. I ask for the eternal paths, where Your good way is. What is Your path, Your way? Father, I take the steps on that path. I will walk in it. Thank You for Your promised rest for my soul.

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Fighting Naptime

In college we used to say, “Study, party, sleep—but you only have time for two of the three.” Win (short for Winston), a biology major, was as sleep-deprived as the rest of us. He said that when he was little, he resisted naps but his mother made him take them. Now, as a student staying up past midnight to count fruit flies for research, and later as an MD/PhD candidate, and later still during medical residency, he wanted naps more than ever but couldn’t have them.

As a five-year-old, Win once escaped his bedroom window during naptime. Somehow, he had matches. His mother (dear woman!) thought he was napping, but actually he was testing matches in the hill behind his house—the La Canada foothills of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains. (Think hot, brown, and dry.) In the end, they had to call the fire department but did avoid an out-of-control wildfire. If only little Win had taken his nap.

When I was a child, I fought naps like a child. Now I am an adult, and I take my rest.

Or do I?

God has told his people,
“Here is a place of rest;
let the weary rest here.
This is a place of quiet rest.”
But they would not listen.

(Isaiah 28:12)

God invites His worn and weary people to rest. He even specifies: “This is a resting place!” He offers, invites, even commands us to His rest and refreshment. Yet how often do I refuse what my weary soul and tired body needs? Like a stubborn toddler refusing nap time in a tantrum, I “would not listen.” Then I continue throughout the day (or days) even crankier than before because, having deprived myself of rest, I am running on low and running out.

Why does the toddler refuse and scorn rest? He doesn’t want to “miss out” on the day or its activities. Am I like this child? In my pride and illusion of self-sufficiency, do I think I don’t need the rest?

Father, forgive me for scorning the rest you provide and invite me into. Teach me to receive Your rest.

Byron Sharman, age 4 days

(Next week: Where is this place of quiet rest?)

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Pacing

I consistently experience a slowing when I am in nature’s midst. Two and a half years ago I was, like a toddler, squatting knees-on-hands in the Napili tidepools, Maui. Still as the black rock under me, I needed no urging to slow down. I waited and looked for a tiny lattice butterflyfish or three-spot damselfish to emerge and then re-emerge. After a long while my sons, done with the tidepools, began to say things like, “Can we go now?” But I wasn’t ready to go. For hours more I could have stayed there, peering into this rock crevice and that one to see if another new island treasure would come swimming out to surprise me. I could have remained there all day.

But this is outdoor wilderness—bubbled lava rock frozen in a wave…

lava rock wave

…or a maripose lily seen for the first time, or frosted autumn grass. You say I should slow down in the wild, where there is the wonder of things created? Easy. I respond, I receive, I readily welcome nature’s slowing with the warmest hospitality.

The tricky part is slowing in the other realm, that inner landscape. In the wild wilderness of me, there is no responsive hospitality to slowing but rather the opposite. Untamed, I do not easily slow; I want to maximize my energy output. I want the high of unreined zeal, operating at 110% with adrenaline coming out my ears.

Besides, it’s all ministry, right? All my frenetic schedule-filling is for good, helpful stuff. God’s work for me. Isn’t it?

But my mind and body can only handle so much. After the crest of the wave must come the trough. After the exhilarating Mount Carmel Showdown comes the Post-Mount-Carmel Nosedive. It’s not pretty.

How often have I felt—known—that God wanted me to slow down. Most of the time, I have ignored Him.

But God in His care of me has strategically placed slowing influences in my inner wilderness. These influences usually come in the form of people. But, unlike nature’s slowing to which I easily respond, I put up an iron resistance to the people who lovingly encourage me to slow, to operate at below 100% capacity. (So far, they have not had to pin me down with a five-point harness.)

But I am learning. Really, I am. For my journal I made a bookmark. I printed in big, filled-in letters, PACE. Then I wrote a quote by a man with The Navigators (sadly, I do not know his name):

“Increase your focus; slow your pace.”

It has become a kind of mantra for me. Little by little, I am (slowly) learning to slow my pace—even when I am not swimming with a green sea turtle or hiking by an aspen grove—but it will be a (life)long journey. It is my journey toward rest.


Related: Ready, Set . . . Rest!

(Join Bonnie who, for this month, is hosting a community of those who share about Rest!)

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