Resting to Grow…

Today was a much needed day of rest. After a late request to a coworker, my usual Sunday night closing shift was covered. You see I’ve had the knack of getting into various streaks of days without rest – without a day off – and I don’t even realize it. It wasn’t until Friday that I had realized I had gone three weeks in a row since my last day off. Needless to say, I was exhausted after last night.

“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist,” – Proverbs 23:4

I used to think this Proverb was in reference to the notion of gaining as much money as one can. I used to think of the rich man in Mark 10:17-22; someone who had kept every rule ever given to him, but also kept every dime given to him. In this day spent watching episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” eating a delicious burrito from Mucho Gusto with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, and watching one of my favorite movies (Finding Forrester), I now realize this Proverb wasn’t talking about getting rich. It is simply talking about Sabbath.

Jesus says that man was not made for the Sabbath, but rather the other way around (Mark 2:27). In His day He taught not to make certain days more holy than others and we’ve sort of followed His lead as a Christian culture. But what I’ve gotten into the bad habit of doing is overlooking the positive thing Jesus says about the Sabbath.

In saying that the Sabbath was made for man, He’s saying that it was God’s intention for His creation to take a rest from his/her work. Oregon law states that for every shift of six hours or more, an employee is required to take a half hour unpaid break for physical rest. With God’s commandment of a Sabbath, however, it’s intended for much more than physical rest; He wants our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls to rest.

Back in my junior year of high school, I was taking a weights class. It was the only one I ever took in high school, but I learned quite a bit from it. For starters, I learned that it isn’t good to work out the same muscle group day after day after day. It’s in fact better to alternate between each muscle group day to day. One day work your upper body and then the next work your lower body. And why was that? In order for our muscles to grow in strength and size, rest – not more exercise – is required. I believe it’s the same for our souls.

Work is forever a part of life. And some of us work far more than others (parents, I hear, work every single day – but I think it’s just a theory…), but no matter who you are or what you do, you work to some degree each day. It’s good for us – healthy, even. But, like taking any one thing too far, we’re not supposed to fill our schedules with jobs and extra hours here and there to make the extra buck. We need to rest. We need days off.

I have often heard the age-old cliché “time is money.” My generation has probably heard this less than the generation before us, but we’ve heard it. And many of us have believed it even if we didn’t consciously acknowledge that belief. It’s used to generate strong work ethics, but there’s a problem: It’s a lie.

Long lives aren’t dependent upon large bank accounts; they’re dependent upon a large faith – even as large as a mustard seed. Food, clothes, housing – you name it; if you need it, God will provide. Money, though useful in the social system we’re in, is not God. It won’t buy you a faithful spouse, a ticket into heaven, or especially a new change in your character. It is simply a means to an end. I use it to buy food, but I can also grow my own. I use it to pay for gas, but I could also ride my bike. And it helps pay for a roof over my head, but who says I wouldn’t be sheltered apart from a lease?

My only point is exactly as the Proverb teaches: We must be discerning enough to say “no” every now and then to those extra hours. We must be wise enough to know that no matter where we are in life, we will always be working and therefore always in need of rest. It helps our muscles, our work ethic, and our walk with God to keep a healthy balance between our jobs and our days off.

God bless.

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Church, God, and Rest…

It’s been three weeks since I last went to church. This is the longest streak of not going to church that I’ve ever had (since becoming a Christian) and honestly, I’m a little bummed out. Sure, it’s kind of a self-inflicted wound when you work so much that you’re either scheduled for a shift on Sunday morning or you’re so exhausted that you need the rest. But church, not so long ago, used to be a major part of my every-day life – not just Sunday morning. Yet now it isn’t.

As I have come to find out the hard way, being apart from a church community will leave you very alone. If it wasn’t for my roommates and my occasional visits to Cross Training (an athlete’s ministry) I probably wouldn’t have any contact with fellow believers at all. I might run into an old friend from Calvary or CCF at some point, but brief encounters are not enough to sustain one’s spiritual life. We need family.

This hit me hard late last night. Within the last five days I’ve worked 49 hours – 33 ½ of which have come in the last three days. Safe to say I’m a little exhausted. My roommates are staying up in Portland for Spring Break and have been gone since Tuesday night. So last night I was physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually drained and had no one to hang out with. Not sure if it was just the stress, the exhaustion, the loneliness, or all the above, but I wept last night.

A few years ago I lived with 8 other guys. No matter what time of day it was or which week of school we were in, there was always something going on. A birthday party, a movie night, a beer night – whatever – there was never not something to do. I miss those days because I was hardly ever alone. And with that many guys (all of whom were involved with a church in some way) there was also always someone to talk to about spiritual stuff. Once again, I didn’t have that last night.

I could go on to talk about how much I miss my close friends from high school, Calvary Fellowship, my brothers and sisters, or even the dorms, but you see my point: You can’t go very far in life without family and friends. You might think you’re happy, but if you’re constantly alone, at some point you’re going to realize your happiness was simply a façade. Money, possessions, reputations all mean nothing when it comes to receiving love. They can’t be there for you when you have a rough day at work; they can’t take away whatever painful childhood memories you may have; and they definitely cannot give you any kind of peace. People, however, can.

No, I’m not saying we don’t need God; I’m saying the exact opposite. We do need God – He’s the one who provides everything we have, even the stuff we thought we earned for ourselves. But we also need people, which is why the church exists. It’s God moving through His people – His faithful children – to bring about His kingdom of peace.

It doesn’t really help me that I’m sort of without a church home. Yeah, I have plenty of friends attending various God-loving churches throughout Eugene, but no matter where I go I’m still going to feel like a guest instead of a member (and by “member” I mean a family member; not an official “member” of a church). And yet this is the exact thing God is challenging me with: Make new friends and become part of a new family. In years past, I had it easy, but now is a season of life where I have to work a lot to keep my faith in God strong and active.

It’s like Donald Miller says in Blue Like Jazz; if we were alone, we’d go crazy. If we didn’t have someone to talk to, someone to open up to, someone to listen to, someone to pray with, or someone to challenge us, we’d become lost within ourselves. And we would never change.

Friendships and relationships are difficult to make and keep, but without them, we’d have no real life at all. Our hearts might still beat, our lungs would still breathe, but there would be no real, genuine rest. We’d have days off and be able to sleep in, but rest isn’t simply a break from work, although that helps. Rest is a Person and His family. It is God and His children – Christ and His body. Even if we were homeless and had only the clothes on our backs, if we have Christ and His church, we’d still have everything.

God bless.