Working at rest

October 12, 2009 — Leave a comment

slow-signRest. It’s one of those things we talk about . . . but it sure is hard to find these days. In a world full of 24/7 noise news and information, on-demand programming, and near-constant availability through the power of technology, rest is becoming one of those things that is merely a fond recollection of simpler times gone by.

I know this might seem a bit absurb, but I actually have to work at rest. You see, rest doesn’t come easy for me. I love my work. I love my family. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes from striking things off a list, putting new ideas in action, and developing people and processes. Unfortunately though, all those things require another four-letter word: t-i-m-e. And for most people, it seems that time is one commodity that is in short supply.

Of course, the truth is that there have always been only 24 hours in a day. We just didn’t insist on packing them out, meeting ourselves coming and going, until finally we crashed and burned, having not one more ounce of energy to expend. That is, after all, by some standards a hallmark of success in our culture.

I’m personally ashamed sometimes when I realize how narrowly I set the margins in my own life . . . always working to squeeze in one more task, one more meeting, one more phone call — until I take a look around and realize that I’m all by myself. I think of a statement from author Michael Zigarelli, who gently reminds his readers that even Jesus knew the importance of rest and establishing boundaries. After all, for every place Jesus visited, he invariably had to say no to other invitations . . . other opportunities to do good things!

I hear so many ministers caution, “Don’t do what I did and live at the church.” Or, “Remember you’re not married to ministry.”

Those cautions have resonated loudly in my mind in recent weeks, as I’ve sought to come to grips with the demands of a new ministry setting. But Heather Zempel recently reminded me of the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy. Funny thing . . . for most ministers, the Sabbath is anything but a day of rest. That’s why we must be diligent to create adequate margin in life that allows those most important to always know — and never doubt — their value and significance. Moreover, that margin must allow for adequate time with our Creator . . . in personal worship, study, celebration, and meditation.

I think of two of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me”; and “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”

How often I’m guilty of breaking those two in one fell swoop.

I’m going to be working harder. You can count on that. Sure, margins have to be adjustable with the give and take of life. But I’m going to be working harder to make sure that my default margins allow enough space to breathe . . . to rest . . . to recreate . . . and to remember that one day when I’m gone, the world will most likely keep right on spinning, never missing a beat.

James 4:14 points it out clearly:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Lord Jesus, thank you for the energy and opportunities you give me to do your work. Help me daily to honor You not only in the way that I serve — but in the times when I simply remember to be still and know that You are God.

So, how do you maintain adequate margins in life?

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