Journey Off Script
by Bonnie Gray
If you ask me how I’m ﬁnding soul rest, it hasn’t come the way I once learned. I haven’t been able to spend alone time with God the way I used to as a little girl. Then, I’d set aside time to sit at my desk, open my Bible, take out my notebook, underline it with the headings—who, what, when, where, and why—and start diving in. When I prepared Bible studies as a ministry leader, I’d exegete passages of Scripture and come up with closing application questions.
No, I haven’t been able to ﬁnd rest for my soul in ways tried and true in the past. I can’t even fall asleep, much less breathe freely, without a heavy feeling clamped around my chest, against a pounding heart. I can’t even focus, much less memorize Scripture or pray like they taught us in Sunday school: praise, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
No, my journey of faith has gone off script—into my soul’s whitespaces.
I no longer have the luxury of writing about spiritual rest behind the safety of studies, numbers, anecdotes, and experts’ advice. I’ve never felt so desperate. For a lot of this journey, I have felt guilty, unable to shake off my anxieties, ashamed, tossing through insomnia-ﬁlled nights, fearful of how others would judge me, and trapped because I didn’t know what to do.
My greatest fear was failing to ﬁnd the freedom I believed came from walking with Jesus. It seemed that fear was coming true, as I found my heart and body gripped by panic and anxiety. I never would have guessed in a thousand years my journey to rest would be paved with so much anguish. But the journey of the soul is one that Jesus is deeply and intimately familiar with. I know this because Jesus has been living this journey with me. You see, Jesus has been meeting with me in the desolate places.
They’re the last places on earth you’d look to ﬁnd soulful rest. These were the places within me I ran from, hard and fast, the places where stress and anxiety overtake us. They rob us of our moments, abduct us from where we are. But surprisingly they are locations for whitespace.
Desolation is where Jesus went to meet with God. It’s where Jesus chose to retreat. It isn’t where we’d expect the Son of God to do his quiet time. It’s the last place we’d think someone so connected to God the Father would go. Yet Jesus sought out desolate places. When crowds pressed in around him for healing, Jesus was in touch with his needy soul.
Words written by those closest to Jesus give us a glimpse into his private world. Luke, a physician whose writing voice is punctuated by accuracy and speciﬁcity, tells us:
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely [desolate] places and prayed. (Luke 5:16 NIV)
Enjoying time with God and ﬁnding soul rest isn’t a matter of self-discipline, of trying harder or setting your clock to wake up ﬁfteen minutes earlier. If it was a matter of simply willing yourself to do quiet time, I know you would have done it. You always have.
The journey of faith has brought you to a different place now. When your heart is troubled, your body weary, or your mind consumed with dilemmas and uncertainty, your soul is longing for something more than checking another box off a list.
Jesus may have led you to a place like the one I am standing in right now, hungering for rest. We’ve never traveled this far, this deep into our spiritual journey. Your soul wants to wake up, so it can rest.
He’s calling us to ﬁnd a new place of rest that goes beyond our ability to create it.
We can’t make it happen.
In the same way the wind blows the ﬁrst cherry blossoms from their stems in spring, Jesus wants to come into our hearts and release us to rest.
To be free again. To feel.
To want. To need.
And to be loved.
This is what I call making room for spiritual whitespace.
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