Every photographer has some favorite images in their portfolio. This is one of mine. It was taken in the old, defunct St. Albans Sanatorium across the river from Radford, Virginia. One of the things I remember most about this photo is the feeling I had as I entered this room.
It was a winter day in January of 2013 and this building was so cold. There was no heat, about a foot of snow was on the ground outside, and the cold winds blew in through some of the broken windows. The building was crumbling around me with very little furniture remaining except for a folding chair here and there. There were paint chips--probably lead paint--all around, bits of masonry on the floors, and holes busted in walls from vandals. Most of the rooms that I entered had a tired sadness about them like is common in buildings that are abandoned and abused. But there was this one room...
It wasn't a clean room. It is hard to see in this image, but the room had its fair share of dirt, grime, and paint chips. Even so, there was something different about this room. The sunlight was warming the most comfortable looking chair I would see all day and it looked to have a new-ish throw pillow sitting on it. The peaceful scene out the window overlooked the New River. There was nothing else in this room except the one comfortable chair. Despite the welcoming environment, for a variety of reasons, I took a few pictures and moved on, never partaking of the rest that was offered to me in that moment.
Recently, I was reading the biblical creation account recorded in Genesis. As I read Genesis 2:2's description of the seventh day, I noticed something new. It says, "On the seventh day God had finished His work of creation, so He rested from all His work."
What struck me was that nowhere in the verses about the seventh day (vs. 1-3) does it say that God rested because He was weary. It says that He rested because His work of creation was done. He didn't even rest because all of His work was done, because next on His to do list was planting the Garden of Eden, instructing Adam on not eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and man naming the animals...There was plenty still to do, BUT He rested because He finished His work of creation.
I learned 3 things from this passage.
1. Rest is holy. The definition of holy means that it is something set apart for use in the worship of God. A cup in the Old Testament tabernacle was declared holy which means it was set apart and only used in a special way in the worship of God. It was never used mindlessly or for common, everyday task. This means that rest, in and of itself, is a spiritual act of worship. I know I often attach a task or obligation with acts of worship. For example, I sing to worship, I attend church to worship, or I serve others to worship, but God set aside day seven as holy because after spending a week of DOING He wants me to spend time just BEING as my act of worship.
2. Rest is not a semi-comatose state of stolen moments at the end of the day being entertained by a television show or movie, nor is it spending time doing my favorite activities. The rest God took on day seven was a day set aside to celebrate a week’s worth of work accomplished. Study after study shows that celebrating achievements, even the smaller ones, is what insures future success. Isn't it great that God made space for us to do that each week? This makes me ask myself, how would my life change if I became more intentional about my times of rest? What if, I took some time each week celebrating with God a week of work accomplished? What if, I took time to purposefully rest in the arms of Jesus each week instead of collapsing in His arms only when I am weary?
3. Rest is a regular event that is to be scheduled and protected and not reserved for a special vacation that comes when I can no longer function because I am beyond weary. I don't know about you, but I can tell myself that I am going to do this one more thing before I rest which is always followed by this one more thing, and this one more thing, and this one more thing...until I eventually realize that it is past my bedtime and I must go to bed before I collapse from exhaustion. As a matter of fact, I am doing it as I read over this post for the fourth time making sure it is ready to post. And the same is true each week. My to do list is too long so I do this and that task until my day off is filled. In reflection, I have come to realize that by not setting aside time each day and each week to rest with God, I enter into the next day or week still weary from the one before.
This brings me back to my special room at the St. Alban's Sanatorium. I wonder what would have been different that day if I had accepted the invitation to rest for a few minutes. Reading Genesis 2:1-3, I am reminded that God has set up rooms for me to enter in and find rest with Him at the end of each day and week. These spaces may not be the pristine fairy tale space that I imagined they would be. Hadassah the Cat will still meow incessantly and the dishes will still be waiting to be washed, but that is okay. If I will enter into that moment of rest, I am confident that I will find God in that moment with me.
1. The night before, when I am setting my alarm earlier than usual, it will sound like a great idea--even a bit romantic, but when the alarm goes off in the morning, I will have to force myself to get up and get moving. I dare not even look in the direction of my bed or I will crawl back in. (Can you tell I am not a morning person?) However, the rest of the day, I will look back and be glad that I stuck to the plan.
2. I never know what I am going to get. Bright lights, vibrant colors, clouds, rain, fog, gray skies, or a boring sunrise with nothing worth photographing. Same with the Bible devotional time. Will I get answers to my problems, great insight, silence, peace, more questions, warm fuzzy feelings, or seemingly nothing at all?
3. Not every sunrise is going to be epic and not every devotional time is going to feel like I am standing on Mount Sinai with Moses as God walks by. Even so, each one is a blessing.
4. If I spend time processing it, I may find that the most simple images and devotionals are the ones containing the most amazing end products. One of the things I have learned as I delved deeper into the digital darkroom is that the camera gathers a lot more information than I first see, especially if I am shooting in RAW format. It is possible to find that an image that looks too dark and devoid of color is actually full of vibrant colors waiting to be unveiled. The same can be said of devotionals. If I will spend time praying, reading the Bible, and sitting in silence with God, I may discover that what felt like a flat, boring devotional morning, is actually the one that impacts me the most.
5. Whether I see the sun or not, it is there and doing all the amazing things the sun is known to do. The same is true with God. Even if I don't see, hear, or feel Him during a devotional time, God is still there and doing all the amazing things He is known to do.
Hello! I am Dawnita Hall. Sometimes I need to put into words the things God is teaching me. This blog is my way of sharing those moments with you with the hopes that what God is using to grow and encourage me will also inspire you. Please, share your thoughts in the comment sections after each post. Let's make this a place where we work together to encourage each other to live inspired to be an inspiration.