The holiday season is upon us, by which I mean the school summer holidays. Even though my calendar is no longer governed by school term times, for me there is still a sense of things slowing down a little during July and August. Or perhaps that is just wishful thinking!
But of course, taking time out, whether that means holidaying in far-flung places, or visiting family and friends, or simply taking a break from the routine and busyness of our everyday life is vitally important for our health and well-being.
When Jesus’ disciples return from a demanding mission trip, their energy and excitement is evident as they relive all that has happened. Jesus shows his care for his disciples, saying to them: “ ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves” (Mark 6:30-32).
We know that it is important to rest, yet for many of us there is a very real temptation to become caught up in a cycle of activity. This can often happen when things are going well; there is a heady mix of enthusiasm and the sweet taste of ‘success’, and almost without realising it we take on more and more tasks. Or, we may find that life throws so much at us that we are completely overwhelmed.
For many of us, our instinct at times like this is to redouble our efforts as the pressure to keep all the plates spinning increases, yet we find that working harder becomes counter productive. The downward spiral continues as our ‘performance’ suffers, we make mistakes, fatigue sets in, yet we find it difficult to slow down or enjoy time off. This is the moment to step back and take the time to rest and recover, but for most people this is counter-intuitive and contrary to what they have learnt in the world around them…
“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. ..For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it” (Exodus 20:8,11).
Barbara Brown Taylor notes that this day of rest, this Sabbath, is “the first sacred thing in all creation”; it is not simply good, but holy. She goes on to point out that this commandment is not just for me, but it is “God’s gift to those who wish to rest and to be free – and who are willing to guard those same gifts for every living thing in their vicinity as well” (‘An Altar in the World’). This is about living in a way which gives life to others, which speaks of justice for the whole creation.
Our heavenly Father knows that we, and all creation need rest. This is the 4th commandment, and you may notice that the number 4 (tilted back) looks a little bit like a deckchair … Enjoy the summer! Linda.