A place of rest

July 12, 2015 | Bethany Cok

When I envisioned life in Yosemite before I arrived, I imagined myself as a wise, hermit-like character, surrounded by rugged wilderness, unfazed by difficulties around me, deep in communion with God and nature.

I think perhaps I forgot several key concepts in my imagining. First off, millions of people visit Yosemite each year. It’s not like I was going deep into the wilderness of Alaska or something. Also, being in a national park wouldn’t automatically make me either wise and unfazed by difficulties, or give me qualities of a hermit, or turn me into John Muir. (Which is probably a good thing, now that I think about it.)

I’ve some calculations about the reality of life here. In a typical week, I hike between 30 and 40 miles, clean 180 toilets, eat around 15 large chocolate chip cookies (often for breakfast), spill coffee on my work uniform at least 3 times, have a couple jam sessions with various combinations of people and instruments, and spend a lot of time around new friends who keep me laughing with their snark and unique approaches to situations. Not exactly a hermit-like wilderness existence. 

A couple of nights ago, I was feeling restless after work, so I grabbed a sweater and shoved my journal, a Bible, and some music and earphones into my light blue backpack. I headed to a path through the meadow next to our employee housing and walked without a light through the tall grass, letting my eyes adjust to the faint light of the stars above.

I made my way away from the campsites and down to the river, a place where I’d gone before in the daytime to sit and listen. My feet slid down the bank and I sat on a log next to the water, silent, waiting, slightly overwhelmed (again) by the vast difference between life here and life as I’ve ever experienced it before. 

And in the stillness of the night, my thoughts turned backwards. The past few years haven’t been very easy ones for me, and I came to Yosemite physically and emotionally exhausted. I wanted to serve God, and I thought He was calling me here, but I was running on empty.

I’ve seen some amazing things since I’ve been here. This summer is an incredible time and place to “do ministry,” to have conversations with people about the greatness of our God, to lead worship and proclaim His love. It’s a chance to live in the midst of the beauty of creation and to meet fantastic new people.

But as I was sitting by the river, gazing up at the Milky Way, He reminded me that this summer isn’t about being so busy doing things for Him that I don’t spend time with Him, taking shelter in His arms, listening and discovering day by day more of who He is.

Because maybe when I pictured this summer, I didn’t realize how much of it would consist of flooded bathrooms and debating the merit of liturgy and 27 mile hikes. But I also didn’t realize exactly how tired I was. I didn’t realize how long it had been since I felt true, soul-refreshing rest, or that I had forgotten what it meant to seek God with everything I am and not just with half of my heart.

But in the middle of this new rhythm of life, He is reminding me. I am surrounded by the unfamiliar. At times it can be overwhelming. At times it’s hectic. I can do so little on my own. He is my strength, because I have no other choice.

And here, in this valley, next to a river and among tent cabins and cleaning toilets and in the middle of life, God is daily providing what I have desperately needed. 

In His presence, He has given me a place of rest.

"Leading worship services at the Grand Canyon provided me with an opportunity to preach within a mixture of both traditional and contemporary worship styles."
– Steve, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School 2003

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