The purpose of a quiet-driven life

There’s a river that is turquoise. It lies in the heart of Jasper, Alberta, surrounded by white-capped mountains and stately spruce. This river washes over rocks of every shape and we sit there, on the edge, my children and I – their hands full of pebbles – being quiet, together. Listening to the world, together. Hearing God, together.

I’m a quiet person. The musty fragrance of a library smells like home to me. One of my favorite places in the world is the garden, feeling the soil between my fingers, rough like a worn towel.

But it’s taken me years to accept this about myself.

From the bowl-cut, corduroy-wearing age of seven, I fought against myself – against my pull for the quiet. It seemed wrong in a world of the loud and the famous. I lay down my Anne of Green Gables books and began trying to find a voice on the page, pouring out poetry, painting effusively, trying to prove myself through art and straight-A’s. My Dad was a pastor who enforced the Sabbath and Sundays began to feel like a sin.

But then like a rebel I snuck in homework when Dad wasn’t looking and defeated the Sabbath and developed an eating disorder from the ages of nine to 13. I pushed myself all through high school, university, mission trips and doing the right thing but never, ever committing the sin of “rest.”

I battled a severe relapse into anorexia in my twenties, juggled marriage, a full-time job as editor and volunteering as a Young Life mentor every single day of the week. I wasn’t eating, I was addicted to sleeping pills and wine, and in spite of all the “good things” I was doing, I wanted to die. I was exhausted, and miserable.

Yet the rat race ensued.

It was for us
In the first five years of my thirties I pushed out three babies, two foster sons and six books (in addition to doing art shows and commissioned paintings).

And then I traveled to Africa.

nd everything slowed to a halt. I met the poor, yet the content – people living with one another in the streets, offline and on purpose. I shook the hands of ancient jajjas and hugged babies and kissed the coconut-smelling skin of Christ. And I finally understood the gospel. I finally understood the reason Jesus came to this world to die for it. It was for us. Not because of anything we can do. Not because of anything we can produce. But because we’re his children. And he loves us.

And I realized something horrifying. The Sabbath wasn’t a sin. The Sabbath was a gift. Busyness was a sin. Busyness was denying my need for a rest. And ultimately, busyness was denying my need for a Saviour.

I came home and cried. I came home and gave up writing books and columns, and doing commissioned art. I closed down my blog because this trip had opened my eyes to everything real I was missing: the children in front of me – my three beautiful flowers growing tall and gangly. I’d barely seen them over the screen of my computer. My husband, a man who’d been reduced to the margins of my life. My Bible, grown dusty from years of counting the Sabbath irrelevant.

The Wierenga children in Jasper, Alberta.

I know we’re not all introverts, by any extreme, but I wonder still if salvation isn’t found in the quiet for us all. Let’s consider these Scriptures:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength. . . ’” (Isa. 30:15).
“But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content” (Ps. 131:2).
“Be still, and know that I am God . . . ” (Ps. 46:10).

In a culture where the dime chases the dollar around the clock, and Sabbath is a suggestion versus a Mosaic commandment, we’ve inadvertently decided rest is for the lazy, and silence for the boring and old-fashioned. What does this say then about our Lord himself who rested on the seventh day after working hard for six?

To the river
It would seem the unspoken is this: We think we’re better than God, that somehow in spite of him sustaining the world for thousands of years, we, the dust of the earth, can maintain a 60-hour a week, 7-day-a-week, 365 days of the year. Even as Christians we’ve negated the rule of the Sabbath in spite of Jesus saying he came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it.

o we not realize that, first, if God is real, his Word is also real and is the same yesterday, today and forever? Secondly, his commandments, including the one telling us to Honour the Sabbath Day and Keep It Holy, are for our own good?

It’s no wonder anxiety and depression are sky-rocketing, for rest breeds creativity, joy and contentment, but we’ve given ourselves space for none of that.

Follow me to the river, friends. Lay aside ambition, and look to the mountains. Remember what it is to receive.

Be still, and know that he is God.


  • Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of a non-profit working in Africa and Asia.

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