After hearing this on a podcast months ago, the quiet truth of it has stayed with me.
We are worn out people, aren’t we? We are productive, busy, bustling. We tackle to-do lists, shuttle kids to one extra-curricular after another. We work day jobs and side jobs. We home school and volunteer on the PTA. We start businesses and manage a Rolodex full of contacts in a daily mission to do what needs doing. We run homes and manage family calendars. We raise kids and care for aging, ailing parents.
There is no shortage of work to be done. We fall into bed each night drained and empty, hauling our weary bodies out of bed in the morning to find the coffee pot and a clean mug. The world is run by worn out people.
This isn’t a new phenomenon but with the prevalence of social media at our fingertips we witness the bustle and striving of those around us in living colour. Yes, perhaps a highlight reel, and perhaps we would do well to manage our comparison but we are still bearing witness to the hustle in the lives of others with a certain sense of competitive envy.
Doing feels good. Productivity is satisfying. Trust me, I’m the person that adds something I’ve already accomplished to my to-do list so that I can enjoy scratching it off.
Why talk about rest, then?
Self care is a bit of a buzzword today. Along with soul care, this idea that there is a holy antagonism between work and rest is playing out in a strange and bewildering way. Is one right and the other wrong? Should we work more? Rest more? God urges us to work out our salvation, to let good works flow from our lives, to spend ourselves on behalf of the poor and yet he commands and models rest within Scripture in an equally compelling way. Which leave us where, exactly?
The answer is something I hope to explore through this series. I believe there are Scriptural grounds for both our work and our rest, and God’s revelation of himself indicates that he values each. Our Creator knows what is best for us, often better than we do ourselves.
I’ve titled this series ‘Wasting Time’ which in itself may offer its own commentary. The idea for the title, however, was sparked from a quote my pastor used in a recent sermon:
“In our utilitarian culture, where we suffer from a collective compulsion to do something practical, helpful, or useful, and where we feel compelled to make a contribution that can give us a sense of our own worth, contemplative prayer is a form of radical criticism. It is not useful or practical. It is simply to waste time for and with God… In this useless prayer, God comes to meet us.” (Emphasis mine). — Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome. New York: Image, 1979.
I have rattled this quote around in my mind and heart for a few months now, trying to articulate the specific part that resonated with me and why. It began a study of the idea of rest within Scripture, and I realized what Henri Nouwen said 39 years ago is no less important today than it was then Or, perhaps, it is more important.
I am an eminently practical person. I believe in organization and to-do lists. I prize independence and self-reliance. For the majority of my life, I have been physically incapable of balance. (Ask my counselors. This is no exaggeration.) Over the past few years, God has dismantled my world view and pieced it back together, so tightly woven into Himself is that I can no longer understand how I lived that way for so long.
I’ve learned to let go. I’ve discovered that sometimes I have to say no to very good things to make room for the important things. I have fought for balance only to have God show me that what I need is surrender. My self-reliance and independence have given way to quiet requests for help and persistent humble, acceptance when that help arrives. It is so completely other to the girl that wanted nothing more than to do all the things, gain all the recognition and be able to stand back and say, ‘Look here at what I’ve built. Go me.’
And so, a series on rest; because I am first preaching to myself, I realize that there will be moments when I want to report on this concept from a bird’s eye view. I have implemented many changes by the grace of God, but I am still imperfect in my desire to waste time for and with God. To quietly lay down my work and say ‘I trust you in this time of inactivity, Lord.’ To sort out my obedience and surrender in his presence without marking my productivity as a measure of my worth.
If you hear the echo of your own struggle in these words, I do hope you’ll join me for this series. Let’s waste some time with and for God together.
“God worked and called it good, and he rested and called it holy.” – Crystal Stine, Holy Hustle