Exploring God’s gift of rest in a world of busyness
Andy Percey looks at the lessons we can learn from this time of lockdown - and what challenges we might have when it comes to an end
We are living in a time of disruption. The patterns and the rhythms that have been part of our lives just a few months ago have been disrupted to the extent that it feels as though we are living in a very different world. In many ways life seems normal. I am surrounded by familiar things at home, by people that I love, enjoying life day by day, which seems very normal. The problem is that the parts of life that aren’t “normal” REALLY aren’t normal.
A couple of years ago while I was on sabbatical I wrote a book called Infused with Life, which explored God’s gift of rest in a world of busyness. I thought at that time that the book was timely, but of course I had no idea that only five months after its publication we would be in this situation – nobody did.
Rhythm is something we often struggle with. There are normally so many demands to life, on our time, our energies, our emotions. Sometimes it feels as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. I have been left in recent years wondering, have we forgotten how to rest? Have we lost the harmony with which God created us to live within? It would be too simplistic to say that the blame should be laid at the feel of the worn-out individual, because I believe that our culture itself is to blame. The hamster may be tired, yes, but it is running on a broken wheel.
This fast paced, take all, sacrifice much culture is all too often part of life. It has been all too often part of mine. Even within the culture of the church it has been a characteristic trademark as we offer programs instead of genuine grace filled relationships. Often we have presented life that is full, but not deep and free – indeed it often comes at great cost.
Why this has often been a challenge to me is that it is so easy for me to find my self-worth and value in what I do. The logical inference from this is that when I stop doing “the things I do”, my self-worth diminishes along with it. When we are busy it gives us a sense of value, usefulness and status, and embracing rest can feel as though we are letting go of those things. We feel that time spent resting devalues us because it feels as though it is undefined and unmeasured time.
Perhaps in this strange and unprecedented time it is these deep-seated ways of seeing ourselves that need to change. They need to change in order that we can not only journey deeper into rest, but so that we can journey deeper into ourselves. What are the treasures hidden in the darkness of this time? What are the secret riches that God has for us as individuals and as communities? What might God be saying to us in this time?
There is a cartoon I saw recently with a sheep sat in a field, watching TV, listening to music with headphones, surrounded by clutter; and the thought bubble above the sheep’s head reads “Why don’t I hear the shepherds voice anymore?” The shepherd is there though, calling over the fence.
Does it feel like that in your life sometimes? Perhaps the treasure, the secret riches in this time is that God is removing the headphones, turning off the distraction so that we can hear his voice once again – because he is still calling.
Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” I have learned that, for me, the frenetic world of busyness so often does not reflect that abundant life but, rather, robs me of it. Not that there is no life or flavour in the busyness at all, but like taking the tea bag out of the water too soon, there just isn’t enough time and space for that life to infuse me.
That is what I know I need, to be infused with his life, his full and free and abundant life; and I know that nothing else will quite satisfy.
The challenge for us in this moment is two-fold.
Firstly, will we allow ourselves to slow down or will we simply try to fill every moment? Because to really connect with God in this time and ourselves we often need to slow down. We are sometimes reluctant to do that though because we don't like what we see when everything we have carefully built to keep our sense of value is stripped away.
But the riches that come in doing this is that we realise that our worth and our value was never in those things to begin with. We are loved, treasured and valued by God without any of it. We are God’s beloved, not because of what we do, not because of what we have, not because of what people say about is… but because this is who he has made us to be.
The prophet Zephaniah tells us that God rejoices over us with singing, but to hear this divine lullaby we will need to slow down and listen.
The second challenge comes when all this is over and we return to “normal”. Will we just carry on as though nothing has happened? Will we just fill our time with the same old programs and patterns that fail to deliver the life that we know we were meant to have? Surely we cannot carry on the same after this!
We must be prepared to listen, and to bravely respond; because the treasure that the Lord has for us in this time of darkness is nothing short of the free and abundant life that he offers up each and every day.
Will we long for it, listen for it, and pursue it with all we are? We haven’t had a better opportunity in a long time.
Image | Sincerely Media | Unsplash
Andy Percey is the author of Infused with Life and When Rain Falls Like Lead. Andy is minister of Manvers Street Baptist Church in Bath
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