Last night - Wednesday - was my one night for the current week. And I stayed home. Steve and the kids headed out the door for Wednesday classes at church as I began carrying dinner dishes to the sink.
It was my choice to stay home - how I miss being at home! - but the choice wasn't made without a few pangs of guilt. I wanted to be with my family, and with my church family. But I also wanted, very much, to have the household chores checked off before a ridiculously late hour. Even more, I wanted some quiet time alone to read and think and pray. I had to make a choice - I couldn't have both - and I made the choice to withdraw to a quiet place, an empty house.
Dishes washed, laundry folded, floors swept...I took a long hot shower and then put on a kettle for tea. Finally, tea in hand, I settled in to catch up on reading J.I. Packer's Rediscovering Holiness. I was several weeks behind in the material we're covering in Sunday school.
In Chapter 4, Holiness: The Panoramic View, Packer describes several "takes" on holiness, different ways that holiness has been described or understood or practiced by Christians throughout the ages. Of the several schools of thought described, they all had one thing in common. Whether holiness was understood to be more internal (prayer, contemplation of Scripture, meditation, etc.) or more external (kindness and patience toward others, industry, self-discipline, etc.), all the views were built on the understanding that growing in holiness means growing in Christ-likeness.
Growing in holiness, therefore, involves growing in Christ-likeness in all these areas, both in the contemplative and in the acting out of this faith. This idea is not something new to me, but considering it anew last night provided such encouragement at this crazy, stressful season of my life.
I need periods of quiet. Without them, I get strung out, dis-oriented, disquiet. Yet, I have always felt somewhat guilty for needing such pauses - like, if I were physically stronger, or if my faith were greater, I would be able to take everything in stride, to walk unruffled through the muck of life. Other people don't seem to need so much rest. Some even seem to thrive on constant activity and stimulation. What's wrong with me?
So why did I feel so encouraged last night? Because I considered anew the truth that Jesus withdrew. Jesus - the God-man, my perfect Savior, the older brother to whom I desire earnestly to be conformed - Jesus Himself sought out quiet places of solitude, places of intimate communion with His Father.
What's wrong with me? Very much. But what about this weakness of needing quiet, still moments to study and think and pray? No, this weakness, felt most keenly in the frantic, crazy seasons of life, is a gift from a loving, gracious God.
But he (Jesus) would withdraw to desolate places and pray. - Luke 5:16