“Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion.” – Mark 4:37
To say that my plate was full would have been an understatement. It was the early to mid 2000’s and my life was on the go, go, go, go! I was taking full time seminary courses every semester, including spring/summer; doing my pastoral internship at a Korean church in Toronto, speaking at a Filipino church every Saturday, and working three part time jobs on campus to meet ends meet.
On top of this I had a huge problem saying “No” to people and was also part of several short-term mission teams to Peru, England, and Kenya. There were absolutely no planned vacations and no weekly rest stops. Although, I was graduating debt free and accomplishing things in life and receiving affirmation and praise from people for my hard work, in all reality, I was growing more and more miserable, tired, restless and cranky on the inside.
I was overwhelmed by the overload and overdrive in my life. I wallowed in self pity and blamed other people, my work environment, and life circumstances for the way I was feeling. I blamed the church leadership, my supervisors at work and the organizations I volunteered at for taking over my life.
And the irony was that I blamed everything and everyone and did not take responsibility for my own choices. If it wasn’t for my spiritual director and my mentor who encouraged me to take responsibility for my own life and who introduced me to rest stops, I would have continued to starve my soul and waste my life away.
When we are on overdrive and overload, coughs and aches and hurts and misunderstandings are reminders that we can’t keep going and going and that we need to stop to pay attention to God and self.
In chapter 4 of the Gospel of Mark we read that Jesus had been teaching the whole day sitting on a boat along the shore of a lake. But when evening came he brought his teaching sessions to a close and said to his disciples, “let us go to the other side.” As the disciples made themselves comfortable with Jesus in the boat to the roughly 10 miles trek to the shore on the other side of the lake they realized that Jesus was not only taking a break from the crowd but he was also taking a break from them too.
There may have been lot of things the disciples had wanted to ask or share with Jesus about the day, but they saw that Jesus attended to the needs of his body by going to the back of the boat to rest.
Here is an important fact to remember: Jesus was not always busy and took regular rest stops.
Dr. Kirk Jones, in his remarkable book Rest In the Storm writes, “Jesus made it to the back of the boat easily and regularly because he knew that as much as he was a healer, preacher and teacher, he was something else – something more, something deeper. He was a child of God. And as a child of God he needed time for soul nurturing. He needed time to receive instead of to give, as was his norm.”
Do you constantly complain that you are too busy? Do you delight in telling others how much you do? Are you constantly on the go? Are you refusing to make rest stops when your body and mind and relationships are communicating otherwise? Did you know that there is confirmed medical evidence that chronic self-neglect, can weaken the immune system and make us vulnerable to colds and diseases? Did you know that it can strain relationships with God and others?
The bible calls rest stops as Sabbath, a day set aside every week for prayer and play, which is an important regular necessity. Rest stops are not optional if we want to lead healthy and productive lives for the long haul. It will never happen if you do not make it happen. family, friends, colleagues, pastors, small group, as well meaning as they are, are not responsible for setting aside enough time for your personal replenishment. You need to accept the need to retreat regularly and see that you follow through with it. If you are in an environment where rest stops are not encouraged, then fight for it. Trust me, it is that important! Learn to schedule your rest stops with the same purposefulness with which you schedule your meals, exercise, shower, work, meetings, and projects.
Here are three things that Dr. Jones suggests in his book that could help you get started.
First, decide on a weekly rest stop. A rest stop is a day in a week that suits you best for prayer and play. For some it could be a weekday and for others it could be a Saturday or Sunday. The day involves prayer and could involve things that make you come alive like listening to music, watching movies, playing games, gardening, going for a walk, running etc. It is a planned intentional time to rediscover God and recover our selves. Inform your friends, family and work colleagues of the day you have chosen.
Second, stubbornly protect your rest stop. Postpone it only in cases of an emergency. Even when you postpone a rest stop make sure you make it up. Rest stops are crucial and actually energize us for more creative involvement in every area of our life. Remember, if you skip your rest stop, your other areas will suffer. Pay attention to and hold each other accountable for consistent rest stops.
Third, make sure you actually pray and play during your rest stop. We always say we can just get through this next week with all its demands then I can have my rest stop. But the reality is that next week or next month or even next year has its concerns and demands of its own. If you don’t intentionally have a rest stop for your stress this week in the midst of your busy life, it is only going to be a matter of time before the stress catches up to you.
“Well doing, devoid of proper self care is, at best, doing well poorly. Exemplary care for others is rooted in vigilant self care” – Dr. Kirk Byron Jones
Samuel Williams is co-founder & content director at Fluid. He is also the teaching pastor at Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Canada.