There are neon bullets flying in the other room while I load the dishwasher. Lively adult conversation floats over from the living room as ideas and experience are exchanged freely and openly. And the banter of the teenager who doesn’t mind a good argument every now and again reaches my ear from beside the homework counter.
The dishes clang, and the baby squeals with delight at finding the dishwasher door down to reveal an extravaganza of stench and greasy tactile adventures. I dry the hands to scoop her up, and consider the life pressing in around me from every corner.
With a wry smile, I remember this “after dinner mayhem” from my own childhood: the blood sugar up, the energy levels soaring, the playmates all close at hand, the referees within earshot.
This is the beautiful chaos of a fed and watered 6-pack or more of children (and parents) enjoying their full bellies and the engaging company of each other. And this is a predictable pattern I’ve noted from my childhood recollections, and from observing my own children and the offspring of those who visit.
“After dinner mayhem” is a real thing around here.
Sometimes I find the amount of stimulation that goes on post-mealtime can make my head spin, and I find myself thinking of a picture that hung over the piano in the “rumpus room” at home when I was growing up.
A boat abandoned on the shore, and the verse:
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone” (Psalm 62:5).
But, I can’t help but wonder to myself, can you find this rest when you’re not abandoned? Is resting in Him possible when you’re still in the thick of it, and there’s life all around you? Can rest occur even when chaos reigns?
I do notice a longing sometimes in the noise and activity for quiet and order, and uninterrupted thought processes. There is this pull to a restful and organized “six days of Sabbath, one day of chaos” pattern. But it is utterly unattainable post-dinner in the world of people I am called to serve. And it is not biblical. That pattern is for the resort in the Caribbean, when someone else is doing the cooking and the cleaning and the laundry. Here, on the other hand, I am called to be present, to serve, to wade into the fray in order to enact community and justice and love. I am not given the solitary monastic (or Caribbean) option.
So how do I find rest for my soul in this place, at this moment? How do I find quiet in the middle of the chaos? How do I commune even while I tend to the baby and the duals and the debates and the dishes?
One option is to just opt out. I would call this option a temptation.
There are quiet spaces in this house. My room is up and away, and there is the temptation to go up and close the door, and shut it all out.
But, truth be known, though it can get out of hand, I love the mayhem, that bustling and bursting that tugs at my attention, and often requires intervention and coaching in order to perfect the give and take of being a social creature.
I could opt out. But that is not a good option. And it’s not realistic. It would not work and it would not last. I know with certainty that it would only be a matter of time until a little hand would be knocking on the door looking for some adult input into a toddler-sized (which is to say, supersized) problem. And I also know that these problems are often much bigger when they are allowed to grow, rather than being nipped early on when I am within earshot and able to gauge when to intervene.
No. Opting out of life is neither doable nor useful. There must be another way.
Basically, this longing for solitude, and this opting out option that tempts me – both of these responses underscore an assumption I sometimes make when I equate rest with an ideal set of variables – kids in bed, coffee in hand, a good book, and some quiet – instead of thinking of rest as communing with Him no matter where I am or what is happening.
“You can be ridin’ in the hurricane’s eye, and still have peace within”. . . Anne Murray sings it slow from the Bluetooth speaker while I roll out the pizza dough, and pile on the curls of cheese, pepperoni slices, bits of bacon, green pepper snippets, and mushrooms. One extra large pizza coming right up, followed by banana splits and a healthy serving of after dinner mayhem.
I sing along. And there it is! In the middle of the hurricane that is life with people, it is possible to reorient and focus on knowing God is with me, and God is for me, and God has given me this lot in life in which I can serve Him heartily. And this brings peace within.
In the middle of the frenzied activity, there is rest in God alone if I would just notice it. The demands remain the same, but the inner compass points me to the peace and rest that’s found in being in the centre of God’s will for me.
This is when I am able to see that this is my calling, and this is the opportunity I have been given to serve Him, and He is with me even in this beautiful chaos to give me the strength necessary to carry out His work in this world.
I am His hands to the people around me, and when I offer them a cup of cold water, or some coaching to settle the score in the game they’re playing, I am doing it as unto Him.
He is the rest I long for, and He is the rest I can have wherever I am, whatever the circumstances. Just to remember and rest in Him, even while the world spins . . . that is the discipline I must practise in the mayhem.
And it is here that it is all transformed into beauty. To serve even in this place, with these people, doing these mundane things with Him by my side. It’s amazing that His work can take place right here in my home, in my kitchen, in my living room, in the crazy games that go on just the other side of the rumpus room door.
And it’s even more amazing that in the midst of all that, my soul can find rest in Him alone.
He is the peace in the storm.
He is the supporting arms underneath when the pressures of life mount around us.
He is the sure foundation we can always rest our full weight on.
He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us, even in the whirl of it all.
xI close the dishwasher door, kiss the baby on the cheek and put her down. I turn to wade into the flurry of life around me, and remind myself that it is possible, even here, to:
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.”
Image source: Markus Spiske at Unsplash