Make space for God to work in your heart

Hello. My name is Makiko Nakao. I live in northern California. In Santa Clara county (population of 1.9 million) where I live, we’ve had 75,297 Covid-19 confirmed cases so far and 1,000 new confirmed cases each day. It has been 10 months since we have been unable to meet at the church for worship. Although the new year has begun, we are still under the stay-at-home order, have to wait in long lines for groceries, and are unable to dine outside at cafes and restaurants. 

Despite these ongoing challenges, I would like to share a little bit about the blessings I have experienced during this time of mostly staying at home, how I have been spending my time, and how I am enjoying this journey with God each day. 

One of the books I picked up before the pandemic mentioned these four rhythms of dealing with stress and fear.

– 🌿REST: Retreating from the various things that surround us.

– 🌿RESTORE: Exercising our mind and body.

– 🌿CONNECT: Sharing laughter.

– 🌿CREATE: Reviving our old talents.

Incorporating these four rhythms in my life has made me want to create more space in my heart where God, and not myself, can work to free me from negative thoughts, false self-perceptions, and comparisons with others.

REST and RESTORE are rhythms that allow us to input the peace that Jesus fills into our inner being. CONNECT and CREATE are rhythms that allow us to output and let go of our false values and assumptions. 


Through them, we find new joy in our relationships with those around us. I believe that practicing these rhythms can help us in overcoming the stress and anxiety from whatever “season of life” that we find ourselves in.


Seven and a half years ago, our family moved to a new city due to an unexpected job change. A year later, after finally feeling settled in, all of a sudden, I experienced burnout. It forced me to examine myself to understand how and why this happened to me. 


Through this struggle, I discovered about the “rhythm of grace” where Jesus rests with me and walks with me. Moreover, I learned that I had been given a “yoke of joy” that was made especially for me. Although my daily life has since been greatly affected by Covid-19, I would like to share about my “daily life” under the Corona pandemic.


In the rhythm of REST, the important first step is to “take inventory.” When I say inventory, I’m not talking about cleaning or tidying. The first thing to do is to look back at your past steps, face them carefully with the awareness of God and His perspectives on them.


1) When did I feel alive and well?

2) When did I feel tired?

3) What gifts has God given me?

4) How is he involved in my life currently?


As I took inventory of my heart, I began to feel that I sincerely wanted to know more about God’s thoughts on those matters, not just out of a sense of obligation or responsibility.


Life has not been normal since the start of the pandemic in March. I found myself spending more time at home and having more free time. But in reality, the change and anxiety led me to keep myself busy to the extent that I could not be aware of God’s perspective and His voice in my life.


At that time, I came across these words.


I’m tired of helping others enjoy God. I just want to enjoy God for myself.

I felt as if they were my own words from my heart. I realized that in order to respond to God’s dynamic calling for my life, I needed to first and foremost be aware of the cries of my own soul and take better care of it. Caring for my soul so that it can rest, relax, and enjoy the Lord is more important than any responsibility or service that I have been given, and it is something that only I can do.

You may be feeling the need to “download” and process your feelings and thoughts, but your mind is saying that there is “not enough free space.” So you are left to let everything pile up. Eventually, you reach a point where you cannot tell what is important or what you need to throw away. Your mind’s capacity has filled up and has frozen. When this happens, as much as you dread it and hate doing it, you have to push the “force quit” button.  Otherwise, even the important things that are going well will end up disappearing from your life in a flash. 


Is this what God really wants for us?

There was a time when various ministries, both within and outside of our church seemed to be going well. As many new needs were arising for the church, someone wisely said to me,  “Before we start something new, it might be good to review what we have done before, and to consider if there is anything that we need to stop doing in order to start the new thing.”


What should I be doing at such a time as this? This advice helped me to discern what I ought to pursue in my life. Those words really stuck with me, and I am still reminded of them often. Whenever I was not sure if I should do something, I asked myself, “is it really necessary for me to do this?” or, “what is driving me to do this?” in my prayers.  


There were times when I had to let go of something in order to take up a new challenge. But the result was always a feeling of having a burden lifted up. I felt at peace to let things go, knowing that as long as I am “joyfully yoked” with God, He may allow me to take it up again in His time. 


Perhaps we all need to take inventory of our minds and make sure to leave some free space so that we don’t reach the point where we need to “force quit.”


I think it’s easy to confuse “what I want to do,” “what people expect of me,” and “what God wants me to do,” from each other when we are too busy each day.  I understand how hard it is to discern what is truly best for us.


I have heard that people who are born and raised as slaves do not know how to rest. That is why God has ordained the Sabbath for us, so that those of us who are “slaves” will learn that we need to consciously strive to rest.


My tendency to try to be productive can quickly turn me into a “slave.” Therefore, I need to intentionally work on restoring my identity as God’s beloved “child (daughter/son).” 


As the Corona pandemic has drastically altered our sense of normalcy, God spoke to me through a sermon recently. The message challenged me to view the current “moment of pause as a time of blessing.”


We are quick to turn to things and places other than God to make us feel at home and find our value. However, what our souls truly need is a safe place for rest, enough space in our hearts, and comfort.


I am cherishing my time with God where I can slow down and eagerly listen to Him speak about His wonderful plans to me. 


Therefore, it is my New Year’s resolution to enjoy resting in the Lord by stepping back from my immediate responsibilities for a little while on a regular basis.


I know that it sounds like a tedious task, but I need to start the New Year by taking inventory! I must do this in order to create enough space in my heart where the Holy Spirit can work freely.


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