catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 16 :: 2003.08.01 — 2003.08.14


Rest a while

So how’s your summer going so far? Busy? No time to do the things that you truly want to get done? No rest for the weary?

Summer seems to always be that way for me. I can never seem to find the time to really relax and enjoy a warm summer day on one of those Lake Michigan beaches, take a long and leisurely bike rides through the St. Joseph County countryside, or even enjoy a laid-back, relaxing walk through town in the cool of the evening. There always seems to be something more that needs my attention, something that I’m expected to do, something that just can’t be put on hold.

Recently I’ve been drawn once again to read (and re-read) Mark 6. It’s about when Jesus sent his disciples out into the world to do some heavy work and engagement. He sent them out to minister to the needs of others. It was a time of action when lots of energy was expended and the result was the natural depletion that comes from intense engagement. I think that we can all relate on some level to times like this, when we’ve pushed ourselves hard in order to accomplish something important to us.

But then in the midst of all this engagement and potential breakthrough, Jesus gives an invitation of encouragement to those disciples. “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

“What! Rest?! Are you kidding Jesus? Bad timing! How will things get done, if I take time away from my busy schedule to rest? People are depending upon me, Lord!”

At first glance, this invitation seems like a rather insignificant request or moment. But, nothing could be further from the truth. This is a moment that I believe the disciples never forgot. Here in the midst of the busiest time of their earthly ministry with Jesus, he invites them to pull the plug and go find a Motel 6. Why? Well, I think that it has something to do with oscillation.

I believe that Jesus understood that we were created to oscillate between engagement and rest. As we all know, too much engagement eventually leads to burn out. And so, even though it meant letting go of something potentially exciting and big, Jesus recognized the price of over-engagement.

I want to suggest something here that might help us to get a little different angle on this idea of oscillation. Let me suggest that this is not something that we learn to do. I’m convinced that we don’t have to learn this rhythm of life, but rather we were created to naturally move back and forth from engagement to rest. There’s really no learning required. Oh, sure we can learn to do it better, or with more innovation, but we intuitively and instinctively know how to do it.

Then why don’t we do it? The reason is simple. Denial. When we live on the edge of burn out, it’s not because we don’t understand our need for rest, but because we choose to deny what we already know to be true about ourselves — that we constantly seek the approval of others and that we are dispensable. When our busyness becomes a way to justify our existence, rather than a way to express it, then we’re in trouble. And when approval becomes something that we must seek from others, rather than a gift that we’ve been given, we miss the point of God’s grace and mercy.

Approval cannot be earned. If it becomes something for us to earn, then we will continue to engage and over-engage in busyness in order to prove our worth. And eventually we will succumb to the pleasing of people not out of compassion, but out of manipulation and ego.

Jesus calls us away from this. Jesus calls us to balance our times of engagement and rest. Jesus says to us, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Therefore, don’t deny your limits, but find God in them. Accept God?s offering of peace and grace for the day. Then, when you re-engage, re-engage with God. Oscillate. Change the world and rest. This is how you were created.

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