Two and a half hours we sat – stationary on the M62 at junction 10. I watched as a large incident vehicle, 2 fire engines, 3 ambulances and what I considered to be a disproportionately large number of marked and unmarked police vehicles noisily sped past us on the hard-shoulder. It didn’t take a member of MENSA to work-out that there had been an accident up ahead and the eastbound M62 had become no more than a four lane car park. The longer I sat, the more irritated I became. “Why would God allow this to happen on today of all days?” I asked myself. “I have so much to do in the office today, but I find myself stranded on the motorway unable to move.” My remonstration heavenward continued for the duration.
The day before my motorway incarceration I had sat with a colleague while she expressed her frustration at being ‘side-lined’ on a sick bed during what we both agreed was a critical time for One Mission Society. We neither of us could quite understand why God would allow this to happen, but with great spiritual insight I gently reminded her that ‘God’s ways are not our ways’ and that God would have a purpose for this apparently enforced period of rest. Little did I know that less than 24 hours later the shoe would be on the other foot, so to speak, and I would be the frustrated one, unable or unwilling to embrace the ‘wider’ purposes of God during a period of obligatory rest.
Rest – this was a word given to my colleague during a conference that she had recently attended. Little did she realize at the time that it would turn-out to be a prophetic word.
Jesus spoke to His followers saying: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,” (Mark 6:31 ). Jesus understood the demands of a busy life and ministry. He understood that our effectiveness within the Kingdom of God is inextricably linked to our ‘ability’ to avail ourselves of times of rest in the presence of God. We should not be surprised, therefore, when God, for our own good, ‘forces the issue’ in our lives that we might learn the art of stillness.
In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick there is a turbulent scene in which a whaleboat scuds across a frothing ocean in pursuit of the great, white whale, Moby Dick. The sailors are labouring fiercely, every muscle taut, all attention and energy concentrated on the task. The cosmic conflict between good and evil is joined; chaotic sea and demonic sea monster verses the morally outraged man, Captain Ahab. In this boat, however, there is one man who does nothing! He doesn’t hold an oar; he doesn’t perspire; he doesn’t shout. He is completely inactive in the midst of all the hustle and bustle; crash and cursing. This man is the harpooner, quiet and poised, waiting. Melville explains: “To insure the greatest efficiency in the dark, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil.”
It seems to me that Melville’s explanation can be set alongside Isaiah 30:15: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”