I’ve just returned from a silent retreat and my journal is full of insights that God could give me every day, but doesn’t because it’s not every day that I take so much time to notice. Though I got much less sleep than my body normally requires, I enjoyed deep rest in my soul by taking time to simply be with God.
Near the end of the retreat God pointed out the bliss of rest through the behavior of a squirrel. Where he came from, I’m not sure. But I was sitting on the concrete porch of the retreat center when I locked eyes with a squirrel carrying a half rotten crab apple almost his own weight. He carried it in his mouth pushing it with his body. When he made it to the porch, I’m not sure what his plans were. He tried to chomp on it a bit, then totally abandoned it for the coolness of the concrete. Just like my dog, he laid flat out on that concrete porch. He looked so peculiar lying there. He wasn’t able to totally drift to sleep, although I could watch his eyelids fall heavy as if there would be nothing better than a good, long nap. He couldn’t fully enjoy the rest because there were too many people walking around and he had to keep himself ready to scurry to the safety of his nest above if need be.
As I watched the squirrel work so hard to rest, I became fascinated with the message God had for me. The squirrel could not find rest until he was willing to lay down his weight. My first insight was how silly the squirrel had been to carry that weight and now he couldn’t even enjoy it. I thought about my own strivings and how they, too, are draining and not very satisfying in the end. (Later when I heard him above in the nest, I could tell that there will little ones awaiting some nourishment. I could better understand what a sacrifice the squirrel had made in love to bring food to the family.)
It took hard work to get rest. The squirrel had to move several times because he was startled by a retreat participant who was unaware of his presence and walked beyond his comfort zone. He kept at it. Although he moved several times, each time he returned to the place that provided so much comfort and restoration—sprawling out on the concrete porch.
By the time I had to leave, he had received his rest too and I watched him run back out into the world to have a quick snack on a nut he found in the grass and off beyond my sight to enjoy new adventures in the world.
The squirrel was very entertaining. But more than that he taught me some important truths. 1. You have to lay down your burdens to rest. 2. You have to work around the agendas of those around you to rest. 3. The point of rest is to restore your soul before you renter your world.
Jesus said: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke I easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30).