Equilibrium: – a state of rest or balance due to the equal action of opposing forces
Equilibrium. We use it to describe balance in market forces, to define that equal point in opposing powers and influence. However with the exception of those times when we lose our equanimity we don’t use it in reference to our own lives. But it does imply a life of sustainability, a life of balance. It’s when our output is balanced by our input. When our work is balanced by our times of rest. It means no matter what we’re doing we’re living from a place of rest.
Everyone’s point of equilibrium is different. And what is input into one’s life for one person could be considered output for another. Input is about doing something that nourishes your soul and lifts your spirit. Rest for me is a cup of coffee and a good book. Rest for a friend is a 10 kilometre run…even when it rains!
It’s about finding your rhythm – the pace of life that works for you. Equilibrium is also about being true to the season that you are in and embracing it. With a little baby in the house my season involves nights at home and days that revolve around his naps and feed times. It’s school runs and marmite sandwiches and standing on the sidelines for cross country runs. So I have my nappy bag and an umbrella (for the sidelines!). I also have my local café for the coffee fix!
Sometimes we need to take that step back, recalibrate perhaps, and ensure that our life is in balance. That we are indeed living in equilibrium.
The roads were busy. Road works seemingly everywhere. Everything just felt busy. People driving to work, to appointments, to coffee, to wherever. My to do list felt as long as the traffic queued in front of me. The city was alive, on the go, and yes busy.
Yet in a central suburb is an oasis, a different world. A park, a farm. Where new lambs had been born and daffodils were tilting their faces to the sun. Where people gathered and lingered over coffee, or went for a stroll or just simply sat in the sun. In amongst the busyness it was a place of serenity, of peace. A space away from the noise and urgency of the city that lay outside its stone walls.
Life is busy. There’s always something to be done, an email to be sent, someone to call, an appointment to make, chores to be done. But in amongst this busyness we all need a stone wall behind which there is a space to rest, to recharge. That counter balance to our work where we turn aside from our agendas and pressures. That place and time of quiet retreat to recenter our soul, to refresh our spirit.
That rest. That Sabbath.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
3pm. The school bell rings and children explode out of their classrooms headed for home. The school day is done. It’s a strong demarcation to their day. For most of us though we live without the clear delineation of work and rest. The work emails demanding attention can continue to come long after we have left the office, the washing begins to pile up as soon as we think we are on top of it. It can seem like we never stop.
But if we look a little closer we will see evidence of rituals of rest in our lives. It’s the putting on of the favourite sweatshirt that we never leave the house in. It’s the coffee out or the steaming mug of tea at home. It’s the cozying up on the couch with a good book or the duvet day. It’s even on the commute home when we can turn up the music we like loud. It’s us building a little margin in our lives.
From the beginning of time God has demonstrated to us the importance of rest. After creating the world, God created a rest day. Not because He needed it – He neither sleeps nor slumbers but because we need it. Jesus too, would withdraw from the crowds to rest. And even though there were pressing needs, He still made room to rest, and He accomplished all that He was meant to.
In this super charged, fast life that we live in, it goes against the grain in many ways to slow down, to carve out time for us to rest. To create margin for God. But it is in this space that we are refreshed. It is in this space that creativity, that growth in our lives flourishes. Busyness wars against our awareness of God. Rest brings us into His presence.
“The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG Bible)
Fighting a migraine for several days and I was left exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I commented to my husband that it’s at these times that my mind is not kind to me. Thoughts of failure, guilt, discouragement seem to assail me and I have little energy to fight them away. I am vulnerable, tears come readily. Feeling like myself again seems elusive.
But then I remembered the words from the oh so well known Psalm 23 – “He restores my soul.”
“He restores my soul.” The literal translation is that God causes my life to return. To restore is to replenish, to return to its original state. Restoring my soul means that God gives the enjoyment of life back to me. My troubled, exhausted and wearied spirit is refreshed and filled with new joy. My mind is restored to its equilibrium. My soul can be and is restored by God.
How? The key lies in the first part of the verse – “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters…”
Ah soul – find rest and peace with God. He’s in control and finds us the still waters, the green pastures.
The Lord is my pace-setter, I shall not rush
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals;
He provides me with images of stillness,
Which restore my serenity.
He leasds me in the way of efficiency
through calmness of mind and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day.
I will not fret
For His presence is here
His timelessness, His all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment, His all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of activity
by annointing my mind with His oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours.
I shall walk in the pace of our Lord and dwell in His house forever.
(A paraphrase of Psalm 23 by Japanese Poet Toki Miyashin)
It’s official, adult colouring books in and are doing a roaring trade. Colouring books are the latest phenomonem and booksellers are consistently listing them in their top 10 bestsellers. They have even hit number one on Amazon. Gone are the days when you needed to apprehend your child’s colouring book for some time out (yes that would be me!), now you can own your own. Delightful options too, from Enchanted Forest to Secret Paris, even a Chanel Couture one.
The colouring books are apparently the latest weapon against stress. Indeed take up your crayons people! Taking time to colour in is about relieving stress, inspiring creativity and relaxing. It’s downtime, relaxing time. Health trend even, promoted for colouring your way to peace. Well for everyone that is except me! I must confess I leapt at the opportunity to have a grown up colouring book. I delighted in my newly acquired tools of the trade (aka colouring pencils). I enjoyed sitting colouring in with nothing more pressing to decide than which shade of green to use or which page to choose next.
But then somehow along the way, I lost that joy, that calm. I put pressure on myself to achieve, to complete! I’d finish work for the day, look at my watch and decide yes just enough time to get this page finished. Deadlines in my head started appearing and colouring was no longer relaxing but something to be included on my to-do list. I felt the need to make progress.
We can do the same with our walk with God. What is meant for our enjoyment and pleasure – reading the Bible, worship, prayer – we can sometimes reduce down to something to be ticked off our to-do list. We forget that the purpose, the intent of it in the first place is for relationship with God, something that we can enjoy. Spending time with someone who loves us. Instead we can find ourselves frustrated or demotivated when we get behind on our reading plans. It’s not about perfection or achievement in reading plans completed it is about relationship with the one who created us and loved us first.
Meanwhile, I’m taking a chill pill with the colouring in and remembering that this was meant for fun and enjoyment. I’m remembering too it doesn’t need to be perfect.
21st Century life is the busy life. The making most of every moment. Expectations are high and sometimes relentless. Work is demanding. We try and cram as much life as possible into our lives. We add in alarm clocks and other devices to schedule our way to a fulfilled life. We can’t stop, sometimes won’t stop and we forget to slow down. We find it hard to schedule in rest across our days, weeks and months even.
Yet Jesus sees us pouring out, anxious to meet the myriad of expectations that come our way. He sees our hard efforts at work. He sees the countless times we are up to sick children, our helping out friends in need. He sees our serving in our churches and communities. And He has compassion and love for us.
And so, in amongst our busyness Jesus calls to us. Out of love and out of care, He says come with me and rest. We see that demonstrated by His concern for His disciples, when He would allow them to pull back from the multitude of people in need and rest.
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” ” (Mark 6:30-31)
If there is one thing we all need to add to our schedules, it is intentional rest. To have the deterimination to make space in our calendars for us to pause and be still. But the rest that Jesus calls us to is not just a rest doing nothing but rather one that beckons us to refocus our hearts, quiet our minds and enjoy the presence of God. It is a rest that allows space for God to restore our souls so we can embrace life with all that is in it.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3)
To those in the Interior Design World a vignette is a small arrangement or display in a home. A small, pleasing picture formed by grouped objects. They are little tableaus that make you stop and appreciate the collection of items gathered together as if a piece of art. They are the encouragement to pause and take in their detail, their beauty. They add richness and depth to a room. And like the correct definition of vignette they are like a small illustration or a brief evocative description.
In our homes, the vignette is the personal collection of curated treasures atop our fireplace or bookcase – photos maybe, souvenirs. It’s my collection of perfume bottles and mercury glass tea lights on a vintage tray. It’s my glass cloches with silver treasures and trinkets. It is my son’s collection of paper creations atop his dresser.
In our lives, God place many vignettes along our path. Sights for us to pause at, to savour and to stir our heart towards God. We can rush past them without seeing as much as we overlook the vignettes in our home, or we can stop and see the beauty before us. The rainbow on our drive to work, the birds feeding on a tree outside. This week for me it was the small Chapel beside my son’s kindergarten that caught my soul’s attention and caused me to pause, to breathe and to cease the rush and still my heart before God.
God’s vignettes can also be found in a single Scripture or Psalm. One that captivates us and engages our heart causing us to pause, to see the detail and the depth in a few words. And as we pause we can hear God encourage us and speak refreshment to us.
“Life is loud. You need to search out the quiet.” (Holly Gerth)
Life is noisy! It’s busy and it’s fast. There’s always something to be done, people to see, places to go. But in the rush of 21st Century living we need to learn to search out the quiet. We need to give our souls the opportunity to breathe. To find the peace, to find the rest and embrace it.
It is in the quiet places that we can hear the tenderest of whispers from God. It is in the quiet that we learn that life is more about being than doing. In the stillness we discover afresh that God’s love for us is for who we are not what we do. It is in the quiet that our soul finds rest. And it is God’s intention that in our daily lives we would find it.
It says in Psalm 23 that “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Or as the Message Bible puts it “You let me catch my breath.” God wants us to pause, to rest. To relax into His protection and comfort.
In the quiet our soul is restored.
“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:7)
Sitting here now at my desk I can hear a plane flying overhead, the hum of the dishwasher. If I incline my ear though I can hear the birds outside, the rustling of the wind through the trees and the wind itself. And as I continue to pause, to embrace the quiet I become aware of the Presence of the Lord around me. And I know “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)
It is in the quiet that our soul finds its equilibrium again – it finds its rest in God.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God” (Psalm 62:5)