I sat in the sterile hospital room behind the threadbare curtain that partitioned off my wife’s bed, my new daughter sleeping on my chest, and listened. Noises of all varieties rang out, some simultaneously, others in turn. A nurse rushing by the partially open door, passersby deep in conversation, a call bell as someone asked for help, the piercing cry of a newborn down the hall, and much more. Yet through it all my daughter rested comfortably on me, no doubt listening to my heartbeat, feeling my warmth, and knowing the security of being on her father’s chest.
A father’s presence can be powerful, and it got me thinking about John, as he reclined against Jesus’ chest (1). It seemed a potent picture of the work of Jesus: always drawing us deeper into the reality that he lived on earth, snuggled against the chest of our heavenly Father, listening to his heartbeat, feeling his presence. He knew his work on the cross wouldn’t immediately eliminate suffering and trouble for us, he said as much (2), but he also knew what it was to recline against His Father, just as John reclined against him. He lived in this revelation, in fact, he couldn’t live otherwise. He said he could do nothing apart from what he saw the Father doing around him (3).
It is so tempting for us to forget what it is like to rest on our Father’s chest. Many of us never even learned to recognize that heartbeat when it draws near. We sense His presence and something instinctive drives us to work harder, to do more. That is not what Jesus did, and it’s not what his Spirit does in you. He is working to get us to let go and sink into that presence. To become familiar with the rhythms of grace (4), to rest against the chest of the Spirit, and listen to the heartbeat. After all, how can we join in what the Father is doing around us until we recognize it? It often doesn’t look the way we expect; much of what Jesus did made little sense to his disciples. In fact, I wonder if we begin living as Jesus did, doing only what he saw the Father doing around him, by staying firm, snug, and warmly against the Father’s chest, letting Him carry us from place to place as He goes about His work.
(1) Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.
John 13:23 (NKJV)
(2) I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 (NIV)
(3) Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
John 5:19 (NIV)
(4) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)