Our friend Larry Green kicks off Souly Business retreats with a story about American missionaries working in Africa. The missionaries and a group of Africans are carrying building materials inland to their community. After they had been walking a while, the Africans stopped and sat down. The Americans, frustrated by the lack of progress, asked, “What are you doing? We’re not even halfway there. Why are you stopping?” The Africans replied, “We have to stop to let our souls catch up with our bodies.”
People in America don’t get that. We’re so performance and production-oriented, we hardly think about resting, not until the hospital or the cardiologist or the psychiatrist brings it up. We take our bodies for granted until they break. We ignore our mental fitness until it’s overloaded, shuts down, or blows up. Our Creator God (our manufacturer in whose image we are made) rested at least 14% of the time (1 day out of 7) even though He never gets tired.
Why? Because rest brings perspective. Rest allows us time to press meaning into the events of our lives. Just look to the Scriptures . . .
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)
“Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31)
Rest enlivens different parts of our brains and replenishes enzymes in our muscles and joints. Just as we were made to work, we were made for rest. In our culture, we’ve replaced rest with leisure, which may now be the biggest enemy of rest. We’ve been tricked into thinking that when we’re not working . . . not doing our work-for-pay, we’re resting. In fact, we can spend more energy (mental and physical) on leisure than on work. I once read a definition of recreation stating it’s anything we do where we lose track of our sense of time. We do that at work constantly. That’s not rest.
I’m not saying these things are bad; I’m just trying to be clear about the goodness of rest. True rest. In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan writes, “Transformation is the fruit of a changed outlook. First, our minds are renewed, then we are transformed, then everything is different even if it stays the same.” He says busyness kills the heart and the best way to measure how rested you are is by how much you care about the things you care about. Buchanan also points out that slaves are told by taskmasters when to work and when to rest but we, as free people, are given the choice.
Who (or what) are your taskmasters? I mean, really? Is it your boss? Is it an incessant drive to make things perfect? A passion to be popular and liked by your friends? An addiction to your being in great shape . . . good looking . . . dressed like a model? A drive to be the best parent to ever to walk the planet?
More from Buchanan . . .
“The rest of God isn’t a reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done. It’s sheer gift. It’s a stop work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. It’s the rest we take smack-dab in the middle . . . without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us to.”
Choosing to rest is our opportunity to trust God . . . to lay it all down for a while.
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