Give it a Rest!

“Once people feel nourished and refreshed, they cannot help but be kind; just so, the world aches for the generosity of a well-rested people.” — Wayne Muller

“That is because Sabbath represents a radical disengagement from the producer-consumer rat race of the empire. The community welcomes members of any race or nation, any gender or social condition, so long as that person is defined by justice, mercy and compassion and not competition, achievement, production or acquisition. There is no mention of purity, only work stoppage with a neighborly pause for humanness.” — Walter Brugemann

Rest, as Barbara Brown Taylor points out (and I am paraphrasing here) “is not just a good idea; it’s the law.” God doesn’t just want for you to rest (“Come unto me all you who are burdened and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”), God ordered the cosmos so that rest was an integral part of the rhythm of life. Every 24 hours our bodies and minds need a period of sleep (and the sleep-aid pharmaceuticals know this lucratively well.) Out of every seven days, in the very act of creation itself, God created a day devoted to rest. Ask any farmer and she will tell you that unless the land has periods of lying fallow, it cannot produce to capacity.

So why is it that we make a virtue of being “busy?” And, yes, pastors, I am talking to you. Hectic, frazzled, busy, exhausted, jammed, “crazy” and “crazy-busy.” These are all very typical responses I hear whenever I am with pastors. Heck, I say it myself.

But I think we’re missing out here on one of God’s most precious gifts. I will give you rest. Jesus said that. Looking at the beleaguered, beloved ones around him. Looking at you.

Americans and their brains are preoccupied with work much of the time. Throughout history people have intuited that such puritanical devotion to perpetual busyness does not in fact translate to greater productivity and is not particularly healthy. What if the brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and generate its most innovative ideas? “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times. “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

But I prefer the way Howard Thurman put it:

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.” — Howard Thurman

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