In the movie Luther, a wise monk makes this quote: “We preach best what we need to learn most.” Because I have heard this same concept taught from other non-movie sources (although not perhaps as concisely or memorably), I’m going to give it a try. I’m taking a good hard look at the discipline of resting well.
The main reason I am thinking of this is that in a few short hours, I will be setting off for two weeks of vacation. The past few weeks/months have been crazy for me, and I’ve been feeling the need to pause and take a deep breath since about mid-January. Well, what with schedule conflicts and and working out practicals, it is now almost May and I am finally getting to go do it. I’m visiting my parents (very good news) and switching to days for two weeks in the process (yay for vitamin D).
While leaving IHOP-KC for any extended amount of time is always bittersweet, I know this time will be good for me. Or, more appropriately, I know it has great potential to be good for me, provided I actually adhere to the title of this post.
There is a big difference between recreation and rest. There is a bigger difference between idleness and rest.
One thing I want to avoid is running around like crazy during my whole vacation, with the attitude of, “I have two whole weeks in a really cool area of the country and I can’t do this kind of stuff back home and so I want to get it all done now so comeonletsgo WHEEEEEEEE”. While I fully intend to enjoy some of the sights and activities that are available in the Philly area, recreation is not the same thing as rest. Being busy with a packed-out schedule of fun activities is not necessarily bad, but it can be counterproductive if it goes to an extreme. I don’t want to come back from vacation more tired than when I went!
Over-recreation can actually be a sign of restlessness — if I have to fill every moment of every day with something exciting and fun, there is a really good chance that I am merely avoiding solitude and silence like my life depends on it. And if I’m avoiding solitude and silence, I undoubtedly have something unsettled on the inside that I don’t want to bring before the Lord. Until I sit still and let Him work on my heart, I’m not going to find that place of rest that my heart craves (and needs).
In short — recreation is fun, and there is certainly a place for it, but it is no substitute for rest.
Idleness, on the other hand, is not rest either. Rest doesn’t mean just doing nothing. Rest requires stillness and quietness. Idleness is not that.
I am very challenged by the strength of language the Bible uses against idleness. Consider the following:
(Proverbs 13:4) The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.
(Ezekiel 16:49) “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
(Exodus 32:6) Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings [to the golden calves], and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
Yipes. Do not want.
Now, I have the immense advantage of really awesome parents who love Jesus a lot and have a great spiritual atmosphere in their house. But I know that I’m weak, and I know that if I slip into the mode of, “I’m on vacation; you can’t make me do anything”, then I will be that much more likely to pick up the TV remote, surf the internet, and lounge around the house bored and unthinking (and worst of all, prayerless).
Idleness — the groundless refusal of work — is not rest. I know that in the past when I’ve slipped into periods of idleness, I actually came out feeling worse than I did going in. Lethargy and atrophe does not equal rested. That’s not how I want to spend the two weeks.
Rest is not just the absence of work. Rest is proactive. Rest is not found in any one activity, or lack thereof. It’s found in a Person. And that’s who I desperately want to encounter over these next two weeks.
Psalm 37:7 says to rest in the LORD. Psalm 116:7 links the rest of our soul to how bountifully the LORD has dealt with us. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says we will find rest for our souls when we come to Him and learn from Him in His gentleness and meekness.
I love the quote byAugustine — you’ve probably heard it before, but I think it bears repeating — “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” We try to fill our hearts and lives with so many things to find solace and peace. None of them work, at least not in any sort of lasting way. When we feel that ache of weariness, it should drive us back to the One in whom we live and move and have our being. It should send us back to gaze upon and fellowship with the God of peace, the God of all patience and comfort.
This is not something I want to reserve for spiritual retreats. This is something I want to live by daily. As Hebrews puts it, I want to be diligent to enter into that rest (Heb 4:11), having my heart anchored in the knowledge of who He is and what He will do upon this earth. Especially considering that I work in a prayer room, I have no reason not to!
It’s something I’m fighting to learn. It doesn’t just happen. Schedules must be hashed out, again and again. Boundaries must be drawn and tweaked. Discipline must pursued in so many areas of life. Entering into that rest truly does take diligence.
It’s worth it, though. If I learn how to rest in Him, I will have the strength to love Him with all that I am in all areas of life, in both the public and private sphere. If I learn how to truly rest, then I will view my labors in my calling as not so much a burden but a blessing, another avenue in which to encounter His heart. Resting well means I will be able to lift up my hands in the sanctuary, with strength beholding and blessing the Lord in the night (Psalm 134).
I may end up posting a lot while I’m away. I may end up posting little to not at all. But one thing’s for sure — the more my soul finds its rest in Him, the more I will actually have to say that’s worth saying.