I’ve been thinking a lot about “restlessness” and “contentment” lately, because I’ve concluded a great deal of what I do to seek the latter consists of drowning the former in spreadsheets or wine or binge-TV or travel or sleep or any reverie that fixes the mind somewhere else–captivated, soothed, or just put away. We seek something loud enough, or deadening enough, to quiet that noise downstairs.
What is that sound? That discontent in the cellar of our soul? If feels like some clanking, rattling machine that needs fuel or grease constantly. It makes it hard for me to imagine a paradise that simply radiated a constant, quiet bliss. The pleasure of needlessness and utter self-sufficiency is hard to imagine.
We feel some simple pleasure, the heat of the sun on the beach in the late afternoon, but could we enjoy that, unrelieved, for hours? Don’t we take relief in that heat, because the wind was cutting and cold just a moment before? The masseuse knows she needs to move her fingers around, across the muscle groups, or that pleasure in your neck will start to pulse like a broken net of raw nerves. Unrelieved “contentedness” actually becomes restlessness, and then agony.
I was thinking how nice it would be to visit with my father, who passed away twelve years ago. We would catch up for a while; I would bounce problems off him. We would share a few stories, but then I imagined our conversation would go the way of all conversations. We would eventually run out of news to share, questions to answer, and then we would likely go where dad went to relieve the noise — the golf course. (Even our wise parents required distractions. Dad had golf and fishing. Eve talked to serpents.)
Yes, I’m a believer, and yes I’m told this profound restlessness is answered by God, who tells us in more than a few places that some are allowed, and some are not allowed, to “enter into my rest.” I just hesitate to make this very simple, or so trite that God would properly call us dullards for making it too easy. Paul wrestled with his “thorn in the flesh” and even the Son of God trembled at the cup placed before Him. If someone were to ask you what “contentedness” looked like, would you say…
“..that’s simple. When you are sweating blood you are content.”
Ponder that one. Maybe that actually is the answer. We confuse mere stillness with peace, mere absence of trial with rest, but maybe we really are the most content when we are toiling away, working, sweating, sacrificing, advancing, birthing, parenting, and knocking down the gates of hell.
Maybe you don’t have rest until you start bleeding for it.