Wherever I Go, There I Am

I heard someone say that once, “Wherever I go, there I am.”

Ain’t that true?

In other words, no matter where I go, I bring all of my thoughts, feelings, worries, desires, and struggles with me.

Every year I take time off for vacation. For a few weeks I step away from my responsibilities as a pastor. As a family we remove ourselves from our usual environment. Usually we travel to visit family.

This is not hard to do.

Yet though my external surroundings change, my internal world does not. Wherever I go, there I am.

I’ve often found that once I’m on vacation it takes time to experience genuine rest—rest that seeps into my heart and mind. Rest that feels freeing. Rest that actually prepares me for my eventual return to routine and responsibility.

Getting this kind of rest is harder.

Sometimes it doesn’t happen.

Mostly because I get in my own way.

And when I consider the rest I thirst for, I think of the deep rest Jesus promises:

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Who doesn’t want this? Who doesn’t at least feel the need for it?

How many of us have a sense of world-weariness? How many of us feel a sort of spiritual fatigue? Seriously, how many of us would like to take a vacation from the news, social media, and, yes, our everyday problems?

It’s interesting that in the Scriptures the idea of rest is connected to salvation, to our relationship with God. Jesus does it in the above passage. But we also find this connection in the Old Testament:

For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said: “You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence. But you are not willing.”

Isaiah 30:15

True rest, of the sort that we ultimately need, comes from God—not simply as a gift he gives, but as the experience of being in his presence and trusting in his strength.

And as the prophet says, often we’re unwilling.

Sometimes we want the gift but not the Giver. Except that in this case they are inseparable. To know the Giver is to experience the gift.

There are always moments during vacation when I have this underlying but vague feeling that sleeping in is bad, that just lying down to read is a waste of time, that even doing nothing—yes, nothing—is somehow unacceptable.

Somehow the notion that resting—stopping our usual attempts at being functional, productive, and useful—is a sign of failure or irresponsibility has infiltrated my unconscious assumptions. Deeply. I don’t really think this is true, but I can feel as though it is. Worse, I can act as though it is.

This happens in our relationship with God too.

Intellectually, we may accept the idea of grace, that we can’t earn God’s love or his gift of salvation, that we can rest in him, but often we relate to God as though we have to do something to make him accept us. Maybe not consciously. Maybe in ways that escape our notice.

We need grace to infiltrate even more deeply into our hearts than our false, unconscious assumptions if we’re going to be able to enter God’s rest, to receive it as the gift it is.

What does this have to do with resting on vacation?

Everything, actually.

How we live involves our whole selves. All the time. Who I am in relation to God is who I am when I go on vacation.

In other words, if I can’t genuinely rest while on vacation, how can I honestly say I know what it means to experience rest in God?

Wherever I go, there I am.

I am still very much learning to live into the rest God makes available and invites me to enjoy. Hopefully I am continuing to become a person whose trust in Jesus is making its way into the various areas of my heart.

What I do know is that I hear Jesus’ invitation—Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened—and know that responding to it is the only way to experience the rest he promises and that I so profoundly need.

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