This week John Woods sketches out an orthopraxy of rest.
‘Resting’ is what actors call their times of unemployment.
Being between jobs can be a welcome rest or a yawning void.
I guess it depends on how secure a person is emotionally and economically.
Many people, preachers included, have hitched their significance to their productivity.
Doing nothing much for them = being nothing much.
The striking thing about God the worker, as we are reminded in the first two chapters of Genesis, is that he knows when a job is finished, he can stop and he can rest.
Preachers: Do you know when you have finished? Can you stop? And are you able to rest?
What happens to us when we begin to feel the weight of expectations, those of others and those we impose on ourselves? Maybe it’s the feeling that we must do ten thousand steps or drink three litres of water daily, finish reading War and Peace, or teach the world to sing?
What happens when we have a distorted view of what God might expect of us? Is there a danger in imagining a God who is never pleased with us, always says “no” or “try harder?”.
We begin to feel weary and burdened, like we’re on the treadmill. We keep running but we never get any further forward, just feeling wearier and more burdened!
“100 years ago, to be ‘modern’ meant to chase the final state of perfection — now it means an infinity of improvement, with no ‘final state’ in sight and none desired. The first generates disappointment, the second exhaustion. One of the reasons we’re all so tired!” (Zygmunt Bauman)
Jesus has a message for us:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28–30, The Message)
Jesus says one of the reasons we struggle and become weary is that we are hitched up to the wrong person. It’s like we’re riding a tandem with Jesus riding behind us. We pedal and think we’re doing all the work when Jesus is pedalling like crazy behind us. Jesus is on our side. We’re not on the outside trying to get on his right side, we are on the inside, enjoying a relationship with him!
“Whatever is hard in what is demanded of us, love makes easy. O Love ever burning, never quenched! O Charity, my God, set me on fire with your love! Give me the grace to do as you command, and command me to do what you will!” (Augustine Confessions, X.29)
We have our hearts set free to serve the Lord, not by keeping an elaborate list of rules, but by looking to Jesus, loving him with a heart set free, and relating to this Jesus, the one who deals tenderly with us!
Spirituality can become a to-do list list, rather than a steady walk on the right path.
What could you do this week to allow Jesus to reshape your life?
“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace”. I think that Eugene Peterson got that just about right.
Make the Christian life less of a rule, more of a relationship.
Rely less on your unfinished tasks and more on his finished work.
Remember rest is not idleness: “Love so amazing so divine demands my life my soul my all!”
Preachers, listen to your sermons.
Practice what you preach.