So She Would Clap Her Hands…

I should think the reason we esteem those moments we deem “blissful” is because they last but for…only a moment. They remain as precious memories because of their rarity. Because we know that they are here but for a moment. They are those wisps of time and space that are so glorious yet fleeting but worth all the pain and suffering with which those moments were purchased. I couldn’t help but think about my late grandmother and how she’d respond to those blisses just now as we vacate here in Cancun.

Rest is one thing. Restoration is quite another. Rest is what should happen rhythmically in our lives. The 10 commandments are not expired you know.

Sabbath rhythms are essential, increasingly so in a world that insists upon occupying your every minute with gobs of events, conversations, disasters, and news.

My weekly rhythm of Sabbath is finding a coffee shop on Monday morning after dropping off the kids with a good biography or a few theologically laden articles. I watch the people go by and occasionally say hi to the warmhearted Southwesterner who assumes, “that must be Ricky…a black guy in the desert reading a book that’s thicker than my head.” After the coffee shop I usually hit the golf course and let the Mountain Views compensate for the normally derelict golf game that will be played there. And I rest. And get ready for the coming week. It is essential. And we must all lean into sabbath rhythms if we are to ever push past survival mode into any semblance of thriving in this life.

But restoration is something else. Restoration is what we need after a long season of battle. Restoration is what David cried out for in the 23rd Psalm praising God that he is the one who “restoreth my soul for his name’s sake.” David had been through the long season of running from Saul, fighting God’s wars, and knowing nearly nothing but hardship for years and years and years. Yet he resonated with a God who allows seasons but for a season. Restoration is coming.

In most ways I should think the restoration he praised God for was coming completely in a time to come—eternity will be infinite-long restoration. Yet and still I think he also eluded to the fact that we’ll have glimpses of it here.

I’m here in Cancun with April and one of those glimpses just took place. And I’m so grateful because I can feel the damage diminishing. It hasn’t happened now since last year. So this moment is appraised above most others in our lives. Let me tell you what I mean.

My pastor, Kenton Beshore, taught me that ministry (the vocational sort) does damage to you. It is glorious and fruitful do not get me wrong. And be leery of vocational ministers who complain about a lot they asked for. But the fact remains the thing does damage to you. To your soul. To your marriage. And to your kids.

I was a pastor’s kid growing up. And though I was the oldest I always felt like the church was truly the oldest child in our family. That kid was talked about and stressed over more than the rest of us in some ways. It’s a real thing. But Mom and Dad raised kids who love God’s church somehow and some way. But there was damage then for us. And as a 45 year old I can see that there’s damage now. There are few people we can be safe around and talk to. Few people who can let us be ‘us.’ Few people who ‘get it.’ Few people who do not see us through ‘their needs’ as opposed to their own. I am not complaining. This is a reality of leadership. And there are some supervisors and execs reading this now who are thinking, “Yup…I get that. And that one I get too. Yep. Uh huh.” Leadership is increasingly lonely. And sometimes that loneliness eats us up and does damage to us. We’d complain and throw our hands up in defeat were it not for seemingly countless pages of Scripture where God’s leaders went through the same thing.

So Kenton would go on to say, “You don’t get to do a job like yours and not compensate for it with an extended time away to let God repair the damage every year.”

He’s right too. If you’re not careful as a vocational minister you’ll quickly end up like Saul—despising your God-given position. Bitter and jealous. Insecure and anxious and exhausted all the time.

Every 2nd week of July April and I get away with one heart’s cry: O Lord please restore our soul for your name’s sake. That 1st week is family time. As are those 3rd and 4th weeks. Something about us wants to take the first 6 months of the year for the Lord and work as hard as we can serving the church. Then on our 1st week of vacation we plunge into family ministry at Forest Home to service couples and families literally all day and all night. Many ask us, “Why serve all these families in your church for 6 months and go STRAIGHT INTO serving other families as part of your vacation?” After all we are indeed exhausted at the end of it. But full. Because there’s something about ministering to strangers that reminds you of the awe and wonder of gospel ministry to the sheep you’re entrusted with back home. We need that to remind us of how sweet this thing is when the ups and downs of our normal back home get lost on us from time to time. That way our vacation doesn’t become a time of venting and complaining—but dreaming and hoping.

But this 2nd week is just about us. No kids. (Thanks Mom N Love and Dad N Love) No schedule. No calls. No emails (I don’t check them anyways). No anxieties (they have indeed become more frequent these past two years). No hardships (be that the Lord’s will). No people to serve (Though we spend half our time talking about them and how we can be better for them). No fears (they are commonplace in ministry—and everything else for that matter). No kids (though we spend ALL of our time talking about their splendor). Just us. How it was 12 years ago when we met. I watch her. And I look at her. All day. I ask her what she’s thinking and feeling. I ask her to be mine all over again. I watch her get dressed for dinner at the resort like it were some grand banquet. I watch her put on her makeup that I’ve never believed she needs. I watch her press her hair. And look pretty for me. And I think, “God you just showed out for me with this one didn’t you?”

We talk. We live. We beach. We have fun talking to strangers the entire time because we’re chatty Kathy’s to our heart. We breathe. We read. And slowly but surely—the restoration happens. We feel different. We feel better. We feel like the shrapnel of what we’ve been called to do decreases and decreases. We repent of stuff. We ask strength for other stuff. We get back to where He needs us to be.

And so be encouraged if you have the capacity to take some time for you and yours. Because whatever is ‘so important’ will still be there when you get back. He’s made a promise to restore you. Give God the space to fulfill His word in your life.

Back in the day when all the tables were set perfectly. All the grandkids had made their way to their Thanksgiving place—in the garage with card tables for dinner tables because that’s where grandkids belonged (and we loved it by the way). When all the sons and daughters and their spouses were surrounded by one another at the seemingly unending formal dinner table. Back when life was grand and there were no such thing as a need for restoration. Grandmama would sit at the table just after prayer and just before we would dig in. And mother would clap her hands in victory. Think about Eddie Murphy in that “Nutty Professor” movie when the mama character would clap serendipitously shouting, “Hercules! Hercules!” It was a victorious clap. It was a triumphant clap. It was a restorative clap whereby her soul would exclaim, “We did it! We’re back! I’m restored.” And so she clapped her hands.

April and I just sat down to a Brazilian breakfast. The sun is warm but the breeze is cool. I can see my reflection in April’s sunglasses. The fresh pressed juice is full of minerals and vitamins. She’s doing her “Armor of God” Bible study because she’s a total holy roller. And I’m compelled to do the same now. The smoked salmon bagel is just fire. The eggs are perfect. And the scene is one of serenity. We sat down just now. And so I clapped my hands. For he restores my soul.

Hallelujah to the Lamb of God.