Learning to Sit
At the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37–38), Jesus makes a stunning offer. The context is worth some review. During the Feast, the children of Israel reenacted the wanderings of their forefathers in the desert to remember God’s miraculous provision during this forty-year journey.
Part of the celebration in Jesus’ time included a formal procession from the Temple down to the Pool of Siloam. In an earlier day, King Hezekiah had carved a tunnel to bring water from the Gihon Spring to create the pool. To the Jews, flowing spring water was known as “living water” because it was “provided by God.”
Once the high priest arrived at Siloam, he ceremoniously dipped an ornate silver pitcher into the pool. The procession then reversed course and followed the high priest back to the Temple. On the way the people sang the glorious doxology from Isaiah 12:
Then you will say on that day,
“I will give thanks to You, O Lord;
For although You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away,
And You comfort me.
“Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.”
Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation… (emphasis added)
Joyously they would have repeated the word salvation over and over—Jeshua in Hebrew.
As the shouts and songs of the people reached crescendo, the high priest arrived at the Temple. In a symbolic display of God’s provision and grace in the wilderness (Numbers 20:11; Psalm 78:20), he poured the “living water” into a basin. It was the highlight of the Feast of Tabernacles.
At that moment, Jeshua Himself stands and cries out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37–38).
Thirst? Drink? Satisfied? Saved? I wonder if, at hearing this offer in that divinely choreographed moment, a longing in all hearts present surged in hope!
In Matthew 11:28–29, Jesus repeats this offer: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden . . . and you will find rest for your souls.”
But we are not at rest, are we?
Our Problem: Losing our First Love
Our deficiency this side of Eden is in failing to understand and cling to the sufficiency of the One who invites us to rest in Him. It is what our hearts long for. He is our satisfaction, our sovereign, and our friend. The lover of our souls. He’s all that matters.
Our deficiency this side of Eden is in failing to understand and cling to the sufficiency of the One who invites us to rest in Him. It is what our hearts long for.
I fear too many churches have lost their first love (Revelation 2:1-5). Humanity and its welfare have become the center of our teaching, worship, and lives. (Note how important politics has become to the church in the last few years.) The glory of God amplified through an abiding and fruitful relationship with Jesus is disappearing. We are not heeding the strong encouragement of Jude 21, “Keep yourself in the love of God.”
Oswald Chambers laments:
The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the atmosphere produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to look after, and it is the one thing that is being continually assailed.
“The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the atmosphere produced by that relationship.” (Oswald Chambers)
Our Solution: Learning to Sit
One of the most profound reasons we do not enter into Jesus’ offer of rest is that we fear intimacy with Him. That alone should tell us a good deal about our “default setting” of self-sufficiency. We are still in hiding like Adam and Eve after their sin.
How can I be intimately restored to a relationship with Jesus, in whom peace, safety, and satisfaction will emulate the experiences of Eden? Here’s a simple example: Be like Mary; learn what it means to sit.
The main thing Christ asks from us is our attention. In Luke 10:39–42, we encounter a woman who is worthy of our focus: Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Her model of sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him while Martha toils to provide the hospitality owed the Lord is worthy of emulation by modern Christians. We, like Mary, need to clear away the built-up piles and to-do lists and just sit.
Consider Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches. Fruitfulness (productivity) in the Christian life is the result of abiding in Him—and secondary! That is why the command is so clear: “Abide in Me!” (John 15:4)
Be like Mary, who sits quietly, expectantly, and simply at His feet. Ask for nothing; just sit still in praise and wonder. He will lead you from there.
I know. Sounds too simplistic. Or too hard! And we’re too busy.
But our busyness is a disguise we use to hide from the pain of a gnawing emptiness and a longing we have not named nor understood. Busyness actually reflects unbelief and the urgings of our attempts at self-sufficiency.
Our busyness is a disguise we use to hide from the pain of a gnawing emptiness and a longing we have not named nor understood. Busyness actually reflects unbelief and the urgings of our attempts at self-sufficiency.
In sitting quietly we face our true selves. That can be scary. But we must entrust ourselves entirely to God, permitting self-sufficiency to wither and die as we re-enter our relationship with the Son of God. This takes time. And solitude.
Henry Nouwen understood:
In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract . . . just me—naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken, nothing. It is…. a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friend, my work, and my distractions so that I can… make myself believe that I am worth something… Thus I try again to run from the dark abyss of my nothingness and restore my false self in all its vainglory.
There’s the struggle. It’s impossible to fully die to self and to persevere in seeking Christ until all the disturbing voices have quieted. Out of solitude alone emerges the great encounter with God. Restoration is found when we fall into His arms and feel His secure and loving embrace. It is only in His grace that we can face our sin. There we listen not to the many voices and distractions—but to the One.
Out of solitude alone emerges the great encounter with God. Restoration is found when we fall into His arms and feel His secure and loving embrace.
Only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature. As we come to realize that it is not we who live, but Christ who lives in us, that He is our true self, we can slowly let our compulsions melt away and begin to experience the freedom of the children of God.
Be like Mary. Sit. Just sit…the rest will come!
Copyright © 2022 Len Crowley. All rights reserved
(This devotional was adapted from Len’s book, Longing: Finding our Way Back to Eden, which can be found HERE).
Len Crowley serves as the International Director for the 6:4 Fellowship and is the founder of Forgiven Communities — advocating for biblical church purpose and practice. For nearly 40 years Len has been a pastor, board member, and ministry director. He has led PLI Global (worldwide, character-based leadership training), helped direct Counsel and Capital (a non-profit investment bank), and taught with Walk Thru the Bible. Len resides in Monument, Colorado with his wife, Linda.