By Greg Schmidt, hospice chaplain
It’s July in Kansas, and the heat is real. What is the best way to “beat the heat?” Obviously, you should look for a vacation spot that offers a cooler climate, right? When I was younger, my favorite getaway trip was to church camp in the Rockies. I progressed from camper to camp counselor to Camp Director. And in the latter position, I introduced the Mennonite Brethren church camp world to “Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting Co.” That added a few “ice cold” stories to all the others.
But what happens when you cannot “escape the heat” of life’s daily battles? How does one find ways to “rest or relax in place?” You may not like my answer, but I believe every one of us needs desperately to allow our hearts and minds to find comfort by taking us away in our thoughts to that place or those places where we’ve experienced the love, grace, forgiveness and peace from God and/or Christian friends who have “always been there for us.” It is never good for us to stay forever pinned down to our inevitable problems. We must be able to “escape!” Mental respite is a must!
I am suggesting we ask God to let our minds take us to places we otherwise cannot go. I accomplish that by beginning in prayer. I ask God to help me recall those places, people and moments when I at least perceived life as simple, less complicated, less corrupted by pain or disease or situations that caused fear or panic within me. The prayer then shifts to a state of productive meditation; staying in that personal place and allowing God to “heal” my body, spirit and soul to the degree that my burden or worry is, at least temporarily, suspended.
Just as our bodies need at least 4 hours of sleep before they can begin to be restored and re-energized, so too do our hearts/souls need to rest from being bombarded by the challenges of everyday life, especially when those challenges include dealing with death and dying realities.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” The Psalmist is describing an internal need – a “thirsting after” – the One he believes will replenish his innermost needs. Why would he make that request? Because life is pinning him down. He’s needy. He’s stressed out. Because the pursuit of those people and situations that set out to do harm or destroy him are bearing down on him. Because rest is the only thing that will restore his life and vision. And besides, he can’t just run to the Rockies.
The vision of a deer so at peace with her surrounding that she can stop … and without fear, lower her head to the stream … to take a long, needed drink … in complete peace … is inspirational to the Psalmist. So he “sets in place” – in a cave – and “meditates” on what it would be like if he, too, like the deer, could drink deep from the cool, refreshing resources of all that God has to offer.
You and I – especially when we’re facing life and death realities – desperately need rest. Why? So that we have the resources and strength to “fight life’s battles!” Heart & Soul Hospice is all about finding rest for our patients and their families. And we get that needed rest when we choose to live and enjoy every moment God gives us rather than giving in to the pain, frustration and discouragement that disease and discomfort naturally bring.
So – right where you are – ask God to allow your heart and mind to “travel” to your “vacation spot” … your “resting place.” Not only do you need it, you deserve it!