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)
“The Pause that refreshes“. A marketing slogan for Coca-Cola in the 1920’s with wisdom for us in 2015. In the busyness of our days we should apply the same. Not so much the reaching for the carbonated soft drink but the pausing – the taking time, taking moments to pause, to let our soul breathe.
Maybe, just maybe it’s as simple as pausing and listening to the birds when collecting the mail. Maybe in the rush of the morning it’s taking your littlest for a coffee for you and a gingerbread man for him before his preschool starts. Or it’s actually drinking the cup of tea that you brewed instead of allowing it to go cold as you send that important email or put on the next load of washing right then and there. Perhaps it’s allowing yourself a few moments to just sit in the sun.
Learning to pause allows space to be, to breathe. Wayne Muller in his book “Sabbath” writes about a South American Tribe that would go on a march that would last days, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down and rest for a couple of days. Their explanation – “they needed the time of rest so that their souls could catch up with them.”
Has you life been marching for too long without a rest? A pause? An opportunity for refreshment? The taking of time so perhaps a soul can catch up?
“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.”
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)
White Space –It is the portion of a page left unmarked: margins, gutters, and space between columns, lines of type, graphics, figures, or objects drawn or depicted.
Not being a graphic designer or anything, I have though learnt that white space should not be considered merely ‘blank’ space — it is an important element of design. The balance between non-white or white space is key to aesthetic composition. An important key I think to design.
Actually, I think white space is a great idea for life. To have some unscheduled space in our life. Some white space. Something not allocated to work or recreation or other activities. Space and time just to be. As much as white space is a key aesthetic to design, have white space is a key to life. It enables an opportunity for creativity, for God to speak into our lives in a fresh way, to be refreshed.
To a certain extent even farmers have white space – with allowing fields to have fallow time. Fallow land is not planted with crops, in order to improve the quality of the soil. Seems to be a recurring theme, and one that can go even further when we consider the Sabbath – a weekly day of rest. Time to refrain from the lists of things to do, the chores and work. Time to rest. Something that God wants for us.
This year, I’m intentionally building white space into my life.
Dolce far niente is Italian for “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Nice! We need more Italian influences in our lives. More Italian food wouldn’t be a bad idea either…
It took a rare 24 hour escape from normal life to make me realise I am always moving from one thing to the next, a watchful eye on the clock, an awareness of what is next in my day. Even at dinner I had to remind myself that with no children with me (I did miss them though!) to request drinks, or need help cutting up their dinner, or cleaning up a spill, I could actually chew each mouthful before swallowing and in fact slow down over the whole meal. It was pretty obvious at the restaurant, food here was savoured and not hoovered down. By the time I headed to the hotel pool for a swim, I even had to be told the time as I signed in. Imagine that, me not knowing what time it was!
Waking up in the morning unaided by an alarm clock (or children), I found myself singing “slow down you move too fast, you’ve gotta make the morning last!” Slow Living is apparently the new trend. It’s the comeback to a life spent glued to devices and social media, the antidote to the 24/7 availability to work. It’s a trend about enjoying the moment, placing importance on rest. Come to think of it, Farmers have known for hundreds of years to give their fields fallow time – time for the field to be restored to full fertility. A field that had fallow time was more productive.
As much as God has built rhythms into nature through seasons, so too does He encourage us to do the same. And while “slow living” – is the latest lifestyle trend, I think we’ll find that God had the plan first. He built a day of rest, the Sabbath, into our week. He created night and sleep! God was intentional in this – rest is what will enable us to sustain our lives and enjoy them all the more. Throughout Jesus’ time on earth, when He must been feeling the pressure of so much need of Him and such limited time, He would take Himself off for rest and time with God. If Jesus could find time, with the huge mandate on His life, I certainly can too and being too busy is not a good enough excuse.
After my 24 hour sojourn I came back with ideas sparking on many fronts! I can’t always have 24 hour getaways but I can build rest into my daily life. Taking time to stop, to enjoy the moments, to slow down. I can walk more slowly back to the car after the school drop off and enjoy the sunshine. I can read more, linger more with friends and family. I can choose to leave the dishes in the sink and jump on the trampoline with the boys. There are many ways I can have rest during my days.
“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 6:31)
Slow living – here I come!