As usual, I love the way Eugene Peterson captures the feel of this in his Bible paraphrase The Message: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
If I’m never still, I’m never fully honoring God as God; I’m trying to be him (and running myself and those around me into the ground). I’m acting as if, feeling as if, scurrying about as if, were I to stop scurrying, the world itself would stop spinning.
God knows us so well!
Why does he tell us to be generous with our money? Because our souls prosper when we acknowledge in practical ways that our money is not ours; we are simply stewards of blessings given by the Father who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills.” We’re to hold onto money loosely lest it hold onto us mercilessly. We break the hold of this potential idol by giving away, in ways that honor our King, more of it than we can easily afford to give. And our checkbooks (or debit or credit card receipts) write the story of our priorities.
It’s the same, you see, with our time. It is no accident that one of the Big Ten commandments is that we “remember the Sabbath.” (And to those who say this commandment no longer applies, I’d say, show me another of the Ten we can break without doing real harm to ourselves or others. In this universe, the principles behind them all are as unbreakable as the law of gravity.)
A lot is going on in this commandment that tests our priorities and reveals who or what we worship. Yet again, it’s part of the exam the Great Physician performs on our hearts. More is at work here than I begin to understand, but part of it surely is telling us that our regularly slowing down to rest and honor God reminds us that our trust—and our real worth—is in him, not in our ability to “produce,” though, ironically, we’ll find that we do our work far better if we’re not doing our work all of the time.
“Work is not always required,” wrote the wise old Scottish preacher and writer George MacDonald. “There is such a thing as sacred idleness.” Oh, yes! And it honors God. But, oddly enough, taking time for regular rest almost always requires from us more discipline than refusing to rest. We too often take the easy way out. We hurry and scurry and run, along with the rest of the rats, a race that often seems devoid of much lasting purpose. Accolades can be genuine honors. They don’t always mean that we’re becoming strangers to our families and trading our most precious relationships for trinkets. But they easily can. And they’re poor but ruthless gods.
Too often we find ourselves mindlessly rushing along “in the traffic.” Maybe if we run fast enough, we won’t have time to think about the troubling reality that we don’t know where we’re going. Maybe we won’t have to ponder the high price we’re paying—and forcing our loved ones to pay—as we live life so badly out of balance that a wheel or two is bound to eventually come off.
Our Father knows that we desperately need to take some regular time (a little daily, weekly, etc.) to breathe eternity into our souls.
And when we have an option to take longer times off, sometimes we need weeks (or more) that are richer and deeper than just expensive opportunities to run faster in our play than we normally run in our work. Surely they occasionally need to be times intentionally devoted not just to diversion, but to real rest.
It was also George MacDonald who so wisely wrote: “The lightning and thunder / They go and they come: / But the stars and the stillness / Are always at home.”
Most of us have lightning and thunder aplenty. Let’s learn to honor God by regularly allowing him to spin the world without our help. Let’s trust him enough to bask occasionally in the glow and beauty, the rich meaning and deep well of wisdom, found in “the stars and the stillness.”
Seeking that kind of rest is, ironically, often as difficult as it is necessary, but it is deeply rewarding. And we can be sure that our God who himself “rested” after his work of creation, will bless us as we seek to honor him in rest.
Columnist For The Journal