We have just endured a whirlwind couple of months which included worry, grief, exhaustion, joy, peace, blessing, stress, and a slew of other emotions. Within two weeks at the end of June we lost and buried two loved ones in two provinces. Add to that a long time member of our church family passed away shortly after. All this was happening as we were making final preparations for a dream vacation with our kids, one we had been planning for over a year.
Needless to say, these happenings required all the energy we had at the time, and probably a little more. There was no time to stop, and regular life suddenly took a back seat. These events connected like cars on an endless train while life was sitting at the rail-crossing waiting for it to pass. For me, writing was at the end of the priority list. But to be honest, that well has been dry for some time.
We didn’t stop until we landed on the dock of our friends’ cottage during the last half of our family vacation. It extends on a lake we have been visiting for eleven years now. It is beautiful, it is clean, it is familiar.
Without fail, every evening the lake somehow finds a restful calm, no matter how windy and choppy it happens to be during the day. The lake resembles a mirror, perfectly calm and aptly described by slalom skiers as “glass”. The lake will also look this way in the wee hours of the morning. I have never successfully made it up on one ski before, but I’m told there is no better feeling than cutting across a glass lake as the sun begins to rise.
Some things require a calm surface in order to do it properly. On one particular afternoon, for some reason the water was just as calm as it would be later that evening. It seemed strange, and yet the water was as glass. The wooded frame surrounding the other side of the lake was perfectly reflected in the water. The trees, the rolling hills behind and the sparsely clouded sky all duplicated wonderfully. The message it was speaking was also perfectly clear.
Reflection can only be made when the surface is calm. Have you ever tried to see your reflection in moving water? Your features are all distorted and stretched. The moment the brain has a chance to make sense, the image has changed, affected by the moving surface of the water. No, the surface must be perfectly still to get an accurate reflection.
This is why it is so important to make time to slow down.
This is especially true in seasons like we just went through, where upheaval, grief, stress or plans toss you backwards and forwards like choppy waves that never seem to end. It is impossible to carve a path through it without losing your balance and taking another spill. And these tumbles take so much energy out of us. It is an unsustainable way to live. One day, there will not be the energy to get up. And so we need to stop when it is calm.
And there are indeed calm moments, we just need to train ourselves to recognize them when they pass along. We need them in order to properly reflect. And reflection is simply looking at ourselves, taking stock of what happened, what is going on and being honest about how we are doing.
In the same way our bodies restore and repair itself as we sleep, we need quiet moments to reflect and restore our minds and hearts from fighting the waves in life. I have found that God helps me with this. If He made me, and formed me, then He should know how I tick. He must know how to best renew my strength for another run. I am learning to trust Jesus’ words, given here as advice to his own friends and disciples,
“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
It is a great promise to reflect on, but only if we first stop.