Eighty miles of journey and a load that grows larger each day. Sticks gouging sandaled feet. Blisters, hunger, and dust. More dust. And then mud. Strangers with stares that threaten peace of mind and lead to one-eye-open sleep. Hard ground beneath and the sky as a blanket.
After such an journey, the walls of the stable must have seemed like fortressing protection to Joseph and Mary. The crude walls of stone must have felt like a hug of grace. Refuged among the smells and sounds of livestock, Mary birthed the Savior.
At last, respite and sweet relief. Jesus slept, as newborns do, snug against his mother. And Mary’s body finally—after nine months and eighty miles—rested.
There’s rest. And then there’s rest. Right? Normal rest is the shutdown of our bodies from fatigue, our nightly sleep, our collapsing into a chair and turning on the television.
But rest can also be that full emptiness (or emptied fullness) that comes when heart, soul, mind, and body fall still and enjoy a moment of communion with the God of the universe. This is the rest I think Mary must have felt after nine months of awestruck pondering at what was happening to her, eighty miles of risky travel, and however many hours of hard labor pains.
Sometimes the journey is unpleasant. It’s not the luxury we would have chosen. It’s a desert crossing, not a cruise.
Maybe the carrying of your burdens mirrors the trek of Joseph and Mary. Each day, the lifting and walking forward is harder than the last day. You question why it has to be this way. But you know to Whom you journey. The stable that is waiting is a fortress. The walls of his arms will hold back the darkness, and your heart will find rest. You’ll be able to lay down—yearnings, blisters, and all—and find that sweet fullness that comes from surrender.
That is why you press on when you’d rather stop. That is why you take the next step. And then one more. Because the hope of what is ahead is stronger than the toils pulling from behind.
That is why He came. That you might have that place of rest, the refuge that sanctuaries you at the end of the journey.