Tree of Life – Part 9
Rest in the Spirit
Without a doubt, part of the key to learning to live in the Tree of Life is to learn to “rest” in the very spirit of Jesus Christ. When we are weary, heavily burdened by religion, Jesus calls us to himself and promises us rest. Why, why, why is rest an action verb for so many leaders?
Jesus was serious. As long as we, with our wonderful driven personalities, keep striving and trying to do it all by our own strength, we can never rest in the spirit. We will run by our own resources until we come to an end of ourselves, and burnout.
I live in Colorado and have been rock climbing for 37 years. Let me use a climbing example to make a point. Picture in your mind the scariest mountain face or rock wall you have ever seen. My task is to surmount this “impossible” goal.
I might start by buying rock climbing books and reading them over and over. But I find when I go out to the rock, I can’t make much of the advice and teaching work. So I read and re-read the books again. But the more I try the more frustrated I become. So, I start attending climbing conferences and seminars even when I can’t afford it. I want to learn from the big name speakers who entitle some of their lectures “Seven Keys to Climbing Cracks”, and “The Golden Secret of Face Climbing”. I attend conference after conference and re-read all my instruction books, yet I can’t apply it well enough to climb this rock wall. I become even more frustrated. What’s wrong with me?
Next I obtain a teacher. A master. I travel up to Estes Park, Colorado and get personal instruction from one of the best in the world – a young man named Tommy Caldwell. He shows me how he does it. I try to imitate Tommy. If this is how Tommy jams his hand in the crack, then I jam my hand exactly the same way. If this is how Tommy jams his climbing shoe in the crack, then that’s exactly how I jam my shoe in the crack. The more I try to imitate Tommy, the more I fail and the more I want to throw away all my climbing gear and buy a bowling ball! Imitating the master seems like a short cut to burnout.
Tommy has power and strength in a different dimension than I do. As hard as I try, my biceps, forearms and legs only have so much strength and endurance. My attempts to imitate Tommy only leave me feeling like a complete failure. My desire and reality seem to be growing apart – a sure sign burnout is growing within me.
Now, what if? What if the very spirit of Tommy Caldwell could enter into my being. His spirit filling me, and working with my muscles, and my mind and my desires. Tommy’s thoughts become my thoughts. Tommy’s power and strength become my strength. He maintains his personality and I maintain mine. After all, he’s Tommy Caldwell and I’m Kim Wenzel!
Now, Tommy starts to climb the rock wall, using my body to climb. His spirit guides and directs my every move. What’s my role? Staying out of the way – just rest in Tommy’s spirit. My muscles can now draw on a power and strength beyond themselves. My nerves, ligaments and muscles now work in perfect harmony.
I don’t have to worry myself silly about all the safety laws and rules governing climbing – Tommy’s spirit is in total harmony with all the rules. I don’t have to worry myself silly trying to remember all the principles in the climbing books I have read – Tommy’s spirit is the sum total of all the books, methods, priciples and techniques.
I no longer need to stress myself out and get headaches trying to decide which hand holds to use. Even this stress can be left up to Tommy. The more I understand this concept, the more I really can rest in him.
But, if I ever decide to step in and choose a different hand hold than the one Tommy wants to use, his spirit will back off and let me do it my way. This quickly leads to muscle fatigue and burnout. I start to panic and complain and scream and even start to blame Tommy for the mess I quickly find myself in.
Resting in Tommy’s spirit puts me into a situation where my responses to the lead of his spirit can be called faith. Tommy’s spirit directs my arm up and jams two fingers in a crack. I look at my situation. I am 1,000 feet off the ground on the rock wall. Tommy’s spirit has jammed only two of my fingers into the crack. Fear of falling to my death seems too real to ignore. What do I do? My response to the lead of Tommy’s spirit reveals my faith. I either trust Tommy with my life or I don’t. Either he knows what he is doing, or he doesn’t. Either he has my best interests at heart or he doesn’t. I may choose to step out of resting mode and direct my entire arm to fit into the crack. Tommy’s spirit will allow this. Now I find I cannot move upward or downward! I’m stuck in the crack, rapidly growing tired and frustrated. Tommy’s spirit is very kind. He does not laugh at me, or say, “I told you so.”
If I never learn to rest in Tommy’s spirit, then all my talk about faith is meaningless. The word has no real application when I am not working with Tommy’s spirit. My faith is a response to his lead. The rest of faith occurs when I stay out of the way and enjoy the climb Tommy’s doing using my body. Burnout is what occurs when I keep stepping in and trying to climb the unclimbable wall myself.
When I learn to rest in the very spirit of Tommy Caldwell, I find myself reaching the summit of the mountain. But here is another potential problem of my flesh. I, Kim, stand on the summit, but, it’s Tommy who gets all the glory. After all, he is the one who just did the climb – all of it – using my body. Tommy has the right to raise his arms and shout for joy in success. My flesh wars against this. My flesh wants to raise it’s arms and shout, “I did it!”
Tommy getting all the glory is no small pebble along the mountain trail. This is a stumbling stone. In reality, it is the very cornerstone of a successful climb to the summit, but, to the flesh it is a stumbling stone. The spirit of Tommy Caldwell will allow my flesh to take over the climb as many times as need be to where I totally burn out in a heap of exhaustion. I must come to the place where I unconditionally surrender and rest.
Hard question. How much of your ministry and walk has been resting in the spirit? Answer to yourself honestly and it may be the beginning of a whole new chapter of your life!
In part 10, we will discuss how “resting in Jesus’ spirit” is a short cut to deeper repentance, holiness, character building and having the very mind of Christ – a Tree of Life mind and heart.