Faith - July 27, 2016

The Gifts (and discipline) of Slowing Down

gifts of rest and enjoying god's presence

When was the last time you slowed down? And I don’t mean took a nap or binge-watched a few Netflix episodes. I mean really STOPPED to actually slow down and embrace a little nothing-ness. I’m talking about intentionally pursuing stillness for the end goal of accomplishing nothing other than sheer rest – and not necessarily the sleeping kind either.

Nowadays, I feel like slowing down is just as difficult as keeping up the pace. We have to go out of our way to “make time” to stop running on our 21st century treadmill and hit the STOP button – stop thinking, stop responding, and just be still. The only way you can truly do this is if you make time to actually do it – like, literally pencil it in.

For Me, “Rest” Is Related To My Faith

Everyone is different and I’m not trying to push anything on anyone, but for me personally, my understanding and experience with “rest” and “slowing down” is undeniably related to my faith life. Yes, I think it’s important to prioritize self-care and pursue a healthy work-life balance, but the “rest” I’m talking about is so much greater than any amount of exercise, sleep, or “time off” could ever offer. So before you continue reading, just know that I’m not trying to prove a point or convince anyone of anything, I’m simply sharing what I’ve learned (and am still learning – usually the hard way) about the importance of true rest and why we should prioritize it.

Two Types of “Rest”

The way I see it, there are two “types” of rest and I’m going to explain my thoughts on both. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to classify/call them “daily” and “weekly” rhythms of rest. Both are necessary and equally important. But for the record, I don’t think it’s always as black and white as “daily” and “weekly”. The frequency and duration of these rhythms of “rest” can certainly vary depending on the individual or even season of life. But for the most part, I’d argue that it’s necessary to have some degree of both.

Daily Rhythms Of Rest

I like to think of the daily rhythm of rest as big picture/perspective-setting time where you take a step back from the urgency and details of everyday life (and your to-do list!) and reorient yourself with what’s important. For me, this means quiet time with the Lord including reading scripture, prayer and assessing my heart and struggles.

Taking 5-10 minutes to sit and be still with the Lord feels daunting at times. Every morning, I wake up and already feel – before the day has even begun – behind (it’s mostly my inbox, but that’s another story lol). I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly haunted by the fear of falling behind – even when I’m ahead and on top of things!

No matter what I’ve got going on or how much I’ve accomplished, I somehow always feel like I’m playing catch up and have umpteen excuses to skip my quiet time for the day. Granted, I’m being a little bit extreme here, but hopefully my point is getting across: feeling like you don’t have time will ALWAYS be an issue. But whatever the case and however small my prayer or time may end up being, I FORCE myself to do it. It’s these times – when you really don’t want to hang out with God or pray at all – that we need it most.

If I don’t continually remind myself of truth, my brain (and the urgency of any given task) will prevent me from seeing things clearly. It doesn’t come naturally – not in the least bit. It takes a lot of discipline and without cultivating a daily habit (and planning for it!) or forcing it into your routine, it’s probably not going to happen. Right? Trust me, I know from experience.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

We’re called to be ALERT and on guard. And in order to be “alert”, we need to be continually putting God’s truth at the forefront of our mind so that we can recognize and even call out the lies of the world and the enemy (and even sometimes our own lies that WE tell ourselves).

Without a doubt, you’re always going to feel like you don’t have enough time or there’s something else you should be doing. Using the scarcity of time is one of the enemy’s best offensives to lead us to believe we can handle it on our own – that spending time with God will put us behind. He throws a party very time we fall victim to believing that it can wait – we’ll get to it later and that THIS (that email, text, etc.) is more important RIGHT now. But friends, it’s a lie. Don’t fall for it.

As citizens of Heaven living in a fallen, temporary world, we MUST make a habit of taking frequent breaths of eternal air. And by doing so, we remind ourselves that the here-and-now (although it may feel like life or death and the most urgent thing ever) is not what should be governing our lives.

Weekly Rhythms of Rest

In addition to making time with God a part of our daily routine, we should also be setting aside a relatively larger chunk of time on a less frequent basis to enjoy the gift of Sabbath. To some of you (myself included), the concept of actually taking a “Sabbath” day may seem impossible or even a little archaic, but its important. And we cannot deny or ignore the value that the bible (and Jesus’s life in particular) place on this practice.

For me personally, this is a MUCH bigger struggle and I’d be lying if I said I did this every week. Heck, I’m not sure if I’ve ever gone an entire day (24 actual hours!) without working. I have to be SUPER intentional about walking away or unplugging from my responsibilities because it’s next to impossible for me to do it without preparation.

In order for us to truly experience the joys and gifts that God has to offer us in this life, and thus live up to our fullest god-given potential, we NEED to practice sabbath. I know it can seem like this sort of principle doesn’t apply to us millennial in the 21st century, but like most of God’s truths and commands, it most certainly does no matter how backwards or unrealistic it may seem.

God created us in His image (Gen 1:27) and enjoying the Sabbath is a way that we get to (it’s a gift!) “imitate” Him (since he also rested and enjoyed His creation – see Gen 2). Further, it’s a time for us to acknowledge and remind ourselves that HE is God and we are not. And by ceasing to tend to our to-do lists and our endless busyness, we are actually declaring our freedom that we have in Christ.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to work hard and do good work. In fact, the bible commends good work and God delights in it with us (we can talk more about this later as it’s a loaded topic in and of itself). But what we fail to realize is that it’s ALSO God’s intention for us to rest from our work and enjoy communion with Him. When we STOP working and put a halt to our ceaseless efforts to strive, it’s like we are saying (by way of our actions) that we believe God is enough and that we trust Him, His way, and the life that He has for us.

Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

I think exercising the sabbath is one of the ways we show that we actually believe God means what he says and that He is sovereign over our lives. If you struggle with taking the sabbath (like I do!), maybe we should ask ourselves is we really believe what the bible says.

Our actions and behavior are the biggest indicators of our beliefs. Practicing the sabbath is a way of declaring the freedom of the finished work in Christ on the cross. It is a GIFT from God that we should cherish and one would be foolish not to enjoy!

Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Final Thoughts

I hope my thoughts on “rest” and the importance of practicing the daily spiritual discipline of devotion and the weekly discipline of Sabbath are encouraging to you. It’s never my intention to make you feel anything other than excited and/or curious about taking your personal walk with the Lord more seriously by letting him have MORE of you.

In my experience, the Christian life (living down here in the “muck” and placing our hope in Christ rather than what’s right in front of us) is a continual battle. It’s a day-after-day, deliberate decision to lay our lives before the Lord of the universe. And as we continue to seek Him, we figure out more and more what it actually means to “trust” Him.

It’s easy for us to say that we “trust” God and that we believe He loves us and has a plan for us, but it’s another thing for us to actually live our lives in a way that proves and demonstrates He is WORTH it. One way we do that is by making time for Him and prioritizing our relationship with Him – on a daily basis and throughout all areas of our life. In order to know Him and know His will for our lives, we’ve got to actually read His words – He wrote them TO and FOR us! There is so much to be gained by putting God first in your life, but like any relationship, it takes two to tango.

Encouraging Scripture regarding God’s pursuit of US and how he delights in our pursuit of HIM: Hebrews 12:4-11 // Philippians 1:6 // 1 John 4:19 // Psalm 14:2