Rest Easy

I was introduced to the work of Christian singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson a couple of years ago when Lipscomb theology professor and writer, John Mark Hicks quoted a few lines from Peterson’s album, Light for the Lost Boy, in his blog.  On his recommendation, I gave the album a listen, and I was immediately impressed.  Peterson’s lyrics are literate and thought-provoking without venturing down the “Jesus is my girlfriend” path of what sounds virtually like romantic love songs for God.

The song from that album that probably resonates most with me is his “Rest Easy.”  The lyrics are so reassuring and comforting, especially when the world seems to be crumbling all around you.  Take a look at the lyrics, or better yet, listen to the song for yourself.  (YouTube is a great place to experience music you want to try.  Give it a search.)  

You are not alone
I will always be with you
Even to the end
 
You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy
 
Do not be afraid
Nothing, nothing in the world
Can come between us now

You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy

You work so hard to wear yourself down
And you’re running like a rodeo clown
You’re smiling like you’re scared to death
You’re out of faith and all out of breath
You’re so afraid you’ve got nowhere left to go

Well, you are not alone
I will always be with you

You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
You can rest easy

Peterson writes as if Jesus were directly talking to the listener, the concepts and comments garnered and gleaned from throughout the gospels and apostolic letters.  The application is so real and true on so many levels.  The song will resonate with anyone who has struggled with pretty much any of life’s challenges.

I can admit it: I struggle each and every day.  I am frequently discouraged and angry and disappointed with myself when that discouragement and anger spill out and affect others.  My faith falters and I lose sight of the higher calling.  I blame others for my own poor state of affairs, when I am responsible for making the best of what comes my way.

What kind of struggles do I face?  There have been times when I have been so discouraged with my job that I just hated even thinking about going to work in the morning.  I attended faculty meetings and experienced chest pains born of anxiety and dread.  Another struggle I face is in marriage: probably every married man in America, if not the world, has had moments of doubt as to whether that relationship would be strong enough to weather the storms that life sends.

One of the biggest challenges I face on a daily basis is dealing with a son on the autism spectrum.  Autism is a constant challenge, not only from the behavioral issues and developmental delays, but also in trying to make sure that my son receives the services that he needs to give him the best chance of success later in life.  I get discouraged when all of the appointments and therapies seem to be having little effect.  My plate is so full at times that I don’t have as much time to devote to my work as I would like.  The stress of dealing with autism makes trying to maintain a working marriage far more difficult than a “normal” life would—if indeed that normalcy does exist for anyone.

I struggle with matters of faith, too.  I have been on an extended journey of spiritual discovery that began when I came to realize that God is more about love and grace and less about retribution and punishment.  That journey has led me to question many of the tenets of my faith tradition, and through that lens of love and grace, the legalism I was raised in becomes less appealing and more difficult to defend and maintain.  I have been unhappy with my church situation for a long time, but I remain, because of a perception of duty to, as well as love for my dear friends who make up that tiny congregation.  Such a conflict of spirit wears a man down, and brings him to some of the deepest lows of life.  In my experience, to be soul-sad and soul-weary shakes me to the very foundation.

And then I hear Andrew Peterson, and through his words and organizing thoughts, I remember the great invitation that Jesus gave to all who were soul-weary and heavy-laden.  In Matthew 11.28, Jesus offers, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus was likely talking to people who were tired of the Pharisaical burden of law.  I can’t help but believe that the offer stands for all time and for all who labor under any circumstance that would break a person’s spirit and drive him to despair.   

In light of my own experience, I hear Peterson’s words decry the burden of legalism when he relates that, “You don’t have to work so hard…You’re already mine.”  Jesus paid the price, took the burden on himself, and made the gift of soul-redeeming grace possible through his life and example of selflessness. 

Sometimes, I think we make things too difficult.  Life gets harder as we pursue ridiculous things that have little in the way of lasting–let alone eternal–value.  Religion gets difficult when form and pattern distort and obscure the most important pattern and example for our lives, that being none other than the one we say we revere and worship and hold with gracious esteem, that earthly son of a carpenter, that spiritual guide of common fishermen, that friend of tax-collectors and sinners. Jesus.  The journey home gets so much longer when we get sidetracked chasing elusive and often inferred rabbits.  We look for more religious tasks to do to the exclusion of becoming what we are called to be: people defined by the love and mercy and kindness that are not just actions, but qualities that become our very essence and suffuse every aspect, every facet of our lives.

In matters of faith and in the mundane exercise of daily life, the bridge rings so amazingly true:

You work so hard to wear yourself down
And you’re running like a rodeo clown
You’re smiling like you’re scared to death
You’re out of faith and all out of breath
You’re so afraid you’ve got nowhere left to go

I’ve been there.  Out of faith, out of breath.  Running on a hamster wheel with no relief and no end in sight.  I’ve been there.  I’m weak, but by faith, I know a fountainhead of strength is only a heartbeat away.  I’m so very tired, but Jesus invites me to rest easy.

I need to listen.  Oh, how I need to listen.

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