Remember when you were small? I’d call you in from the backyard, we’d sit on the floor and have lunch, your favorite; peanut butter and jelly with tomato soup and lots of crackers. And then, I’d tell you it was time to rest so you’d grow big and strong. You’d complain about having to nap, but in the end I’d always win because you’d fall asleep watching Captain Kangaroo.
As you grew, when you’d come home from school I’d make you a snack, your favorite again, and then you’d run out to play. After supper and chores and homework, I’d say, “Bedtime, you need your rest, so you’ll be sharp in school.” You’d complain about it being so early, but in the end I’d always win because you’d fall asleep before I finished reading you a story.
And then, there was the time you came down with the fever. You asked “Daddy, am I going to heaven—to be with Mama?”
I said, “Not for a long time son. You’ll get well; you just need your rest.” Sure enough you recovered and grew to be a fine young man.
Now I sit, resting weary bones on this old familiar bench. Marble sentinels stand guard over loved ones; their cadence; R.I.P.
Words I’ve heard too often, rest in peace, echo in my mind. I wonder, what does that really mean?
And then, a man sits down and asks, “How ya doin’?”
I stare at the fresh dirt and ask, “What’s it mean, rest in peace?”
“Well,” he said. “There’s a rest we give our bodies, like naps, to grow big and strong, and plenty of rest, so we’ll be sharp in school. And then, there’s the extra rest we need when we’re ill so we can heal. That kind of rest helps our bodies mend.” And then he patted a book in his lap. “But, this kind of rest is different.”
I started to ask if we knew each other, but he continued.
“This is rest for the soul. And it’s the most important kind of rest. It heals broken hearts, restores hope and provides peace. It’s available in this life,” he nodded toward the marble, “and the next.” Then, he looked down. “But, few ever find it.”
“Peace?” I whispered and looked at the gravestone nearest me.
I taught you all you needed to know about getting your piece of the pie, but nothing about peace in your soul. The marker says, Rest in peace, but I don’t know if you ever will. I failed you. If there’s rest for the soul—it’ll never be mine. I don’t deserve it. I’m so sorry my child.
I blinked and pain leaked down my cheek. “That’s my boy” I nodded toward the fresh dirt and simple stone. “Thirteen months ago was the last time we spoke. He called, crying. Divorce papers in hand, wife and kids were gone, something about being married to his job.”
I tasted salty wet on my lip. “I told him to get some rest because, everything looks better after a good night’s rest. He screamed into the phone, ‘A nap won’t fix this Dad! I don’t need sleep. I need peace!’ Click. That was the last time I heard from him. I tried calling. He never answered. And then three days ago, I got the call from the hospital.”
The man opened his Bible.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me’ for I am meek and lowly in heart” and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“Sounds like something my wife would have read—before she died giving birth to my son.” I clenched my jaw and swallowed hard. “After that it was just him and me—and God? Well I didn’t have much time for him—I was too busy raising my kid. But, that’s my fault, not my boys.”
The man’s smile glowed. “Your son is with Jesus. I know. I heard him pray, watched him change, and carried him Home.”
Without thinking, I closed my eyes and hit my knees. “Lord, I’m so weary. I want…I need to come back to you. I want to see my family again. Please let me enter Your rest.”
I opened my eyes, the man was gone...but a peaceful rest in my soul still remains.
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