“Chris, what do you do for recreation? What energizes you?” When my buddy, Deep-listening Dave, asked me these questions, I couldn’t really form a response that resonated with anything approximating truth. What do I do for recreation, for renewal? What does energize me? Am I becoming clueless as to what my body and soul need for nourishment?
Now, it’s true: as Americans, we do a terrific job of fulfilling Neil Postman’s quote of “amusing ourselves to death.” We spend billions of dollars on vacations annually; we stress out on planes, trains, and automobiles, hurtling (or crawling) toward locations that are never as good as we remember to share an experience that is never as legendary as we hope. During weekdays, we pound coffee, toss chocolate down our throats like pennies down a wishing well, and then unwind with a glass (or three) of wine—only to wake up too early to try to do it all over again. Then, the blessed weekend arrives with its sacraments of football, various projects, and plans. Come Monday, we realize we never actually rested at all.
It’s not inherently bad to be tired. Being tired can be a sign of tremendous productivity, of fruitfulness, of living in step with your limits and with what God has for you. But it can also just be a sign of ceaseless striving. You’re climbing, but you don’t know where the ladder ends. You just know that you’re supposed to climb to that next rung. This kind of striving is bad when it leaves you feeling empty.
Jesus got tired—real tired. In John 4, Jesus is tuckered out. So, he goes to out-of-the-way Samaria…and famously ministers to a Samaritan woman, who tells her whole village about him. In Matthew 14, Jesus is depressed and tired. So, he goes out in a boat by himself for some alone time…only to be followed by the crowds, for whom he feels compassion and heals readily.
There is rest to be had in ministering to others. As Tim Keller points out, there is a freedom to self-forgetfulness. Serving others, fulfilling others’ needs, actually fills you. But there is a rhythm that’s modeled for us in the Bible. After fashioning everything from nothing, God set aside one entire day for rest. God rested to show that he was God and that His creation was good. When we enter into that rest, we too are renewed by the understanding that God is God and that His creation is good. When I rest, I realize, shockingly, that the world doesn’t depend on my awesomeness in order to continue. It depends on God’s.
When was the last time you rested and felt renewed? When was the last time you entered into the rhythm of serving others and resting? As I write this, I am not renewed. But I know that the promise of rest and renewal is just waiting for me to grasp. All I need to do is reach out. Will I? Will you?
Until justice and peace embrace,