Series: The Word
Matthew 11:28 ESV
When I was young I didn’t appreciate the value of rest.
I did not seek rest.
Now, mind you when my Mother put me down for a nap, I did fall asleep.
I did feel better when I woke up.
So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense why I fought it so…
Matthew 11:28 tells us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
The phrase “all who labor and are heavy laden” is a puzzle to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever known what it’s like to be heavy laden by labor.
I think probably the hardest job I’ve ever had was working for the railroad which started when I was 21 years old. I was a railroad clerk.
When you first begin, you work what they call “the extra board”. That means you get called and within a few hours you show up to do the job they assign you to do that day. Most of the time, I got called to walk the tracks at night and make a log of the train cars that came into the yard. During sunshine or rain, ice, snow, or drippy heat, you show up.
In those days there were (what they called) bums who road inside the empty cars from one town to another. That freaked me out at first, but I soon found out they were harmless.
Then there were rats. Thousands and thousands of rats in the railroad yard because of grain spillage. You could actually hear them coming. Thhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
That’s when I really learned how to pray.
I asked God to protect me from the rats. God showed up. They never came near me.
The most difficult part of the job was the rain. See, we didn’t have electronic devices, I had a pad and a pencil and I had to write down every car number on paper, take it inside, and another (older) clerk would type up the numbers.
Most of the men who worked for the railroad didn’t think women should be hired to work along side them.
A few men helped the women who had been hired, but not many.
Day in and day out I worked 8 hours, went home and slept and then got called back to work the next eight hour shift. It was laborious and sometimes heavy laden.
What’s strange is that I didn’t mind. It gave me purpose.
It gave me time to pray as I walked the tracks in the east bottoms in Kansas City.
I spent hours upon hours talking to God and learning how to rely on God for protection.
In the Message, Matthew 11:28 says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest.”
I’d been in church all my life but I’m not sure my faith was put to the test until I went to work for the railroad.
After I went to work for the railroad I read many many books about angels and how they protect us. I prayed that the Spirit would teach me about angels. I can’t say I was burned out on religion, but I was not convinced that what the church taught changed me.
What I learned about God, how the Spirit protects, angels, and prayer at the railroad changed me. Working there gave me a chance to “get away from” life and to spend time with God. It forever changed how I view God’s ever-protecting hand.
When I walked the tracks at night I learned how to rest in God. I came to really know the presence of the Spirit. It didn’t happen over night, but as I walked the tracks by myself, the Spirit taught me how to live in Christ.
…really LIVE in Jesus.
So, I did learn some really good basic things in church growing up about God and Jesus. I learned from reading the Bible about the Spirit but that was about all I knew.
I read about angels protecting people. But all of that was about other people.
When I went to work for the railroad I was so afraid that I came to rely on God. Nobody was out in the railroad yard with me to protect me. That’s when I started to pray and rely on God.
One thing I prayed about is that the thousands of rats would never come near me…and they didn’t. That was a real faith booster.
I was never approached by a stranger out in the yards at night.
What’s most remarkable is that God gave me a sense of knowing when angels were nearby. That sense has stayed with me all my life.
Walking the tracks by myself at night began a long journey that taught me (teaches me) how resting in God can open remarkable doors that teach me (us) how to know God.
I love the church, but I didn’t learn any of that in church. I learned it by hearing 1000 rats within earshot, by walking in the thick freezing rain for hours, by being desperate enough to rely on God day in and day out as I walked the tracks.
Spiritual Practice: Rest
Really rest in God. Let go of your anxiety. Stop being busy. Sit. Invite God to sit with you and rest.
In God, Deborah