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)
Remember : – to retain in the memory; keep in mind; remain aware of:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
In Exodus God commands us to remember the Sabbath. Beautiful in its simplicity, it was a call to rest. An opportunity to end, to cease and to pause. Before God gave this to Moses as one of the Ten Commandments the Sabbath existed as an attitude, a principle, a mind-set. It was part of the regular rhythm of life.
“By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.” (Genesis 2:2)
On the Sixth Day, God created man. And on the Seventh Day, God rested. He rested not because He was tired or worn out. He rested to make a statement. Man was created and the very next day man entered rest – God’s rest. Creation was not finished until the Sabbath was created. Rest – the Sabbath was the capstone of creation.
We need to live our lives with an awareness of being in the rest of God. The Sabbath is an invitation, after working diligently, to stand in the space of God and rest in His provision. It is our breathing room, our space, the margin where we can enjoy God. The Rhythm of Grace is living from a place of rest. Rest is renewal. Rest is refreshment. Rest is created by God. We need to remember and live from this place of rest.
“So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)
Tonight, my 4 year old and I stood outside in the early evening to look at the moon and the stars. We paused and made space. And while for my son it was an exciting time looking at the fading sunset and pointing out stars, for me it was an opportunity to stop and to pause and to think of God. A Sabbath moment.
“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers–the moon and the stars you set in place..” (Psalm 8:3)
“Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” St Augustine
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:1)
Like a wanderer – rootless, aimless, a rover – so too our soul often is. We roam, wander away from God through hurt, discontentment, through apathy, through boredom even. We sometimes let out soul roam wherever it pleases – to negative thoughts, to self pity and self centredness. We let our hearts be restless. We let it wander away from God. But like a homing beacon, we hear the call of God. Like a whisper over the seas calling 0ur hearts home again.
Our intent and focus may change, may shift away from God, but God’s love and intent for us never changes. His love for us never fails (Psalm 136). He’s the Father who watches and waits for His son to return home, ready to run the moment He catches a glimpse of him and welcome him home. Nothing we ever do can separate us from the love of God. No lonesome road that we travel down will ever stop us being found, being loved by Him.
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12)
People often comment that they need to “Carve out time”. The use of the word carve is definitely appropriate for the effort sometimes required to rest!!! It takes intentionality to slow down, to turn down invitations, to unplug, but it is oh so worth it! Not stopping is one of the risks of the 24-7 society that we now live in. Flexible hours and the technological advances have meant life is easier on the one hand but provides challenges on the other. We can no longer unplug from work as easily when we leave the office. If we haven’t had the chance to do the food shopping there is a supermarket open 24 hours to assist. Express options for shopping, deliveries are everywhere. We can effectively pay bills, work, shop 24-7! This road runner approach to life in the 21st Century means that it is hard to slow down. In fact few places put us out of reach of work and responsibilities! Recently, while I was surprised to receive an out of office reply from my Software provider stating that he was in the Australian Outback, I was even more startled by the fact that 2 minutes after receiving his out of office message he actually responded to my email. Even in the outback you can still remain plugged in!
If you need further convincing about the hectic pace of life then look no further than “The World Institute of Slowness”. Founded to promote slow living! Yes life has got so busy that we need an Institute to tell us how to slow down! Actually, we need look no further than the Bible. If we go back to the creation of the world we will see that God demonstrated the importance of rest by doing just that! He created the world and then He rested. It was a purposeful stop. God did not need rest as He does not weary, but He had finished creating the world.
It’s time to ensure that taking rest – that pressing pause on life – is part of the rhythms of our days, weeks and years. Not rest to recover but rest to sustain, to refresh. From five-minute interludes to longer breaks, rest should be an integral part of our life. From having a cup of tea (where the tea bag has actually had time to steep!) to an afternoon reading a novel, a weekend away. Rest.
“On the seventh day God had finished His work of creation, so He rested from all His work.” (Genesis 2:2)