Need a Break?

Every single one of us is addicted to busyness. Try to convince me otherwise. We feed off the stress of too much. We long for a simpler time when we didn’t run from one thing to the next constantly overcome with stimulation overload.

For some, that time was about a year ago in the middle of the pandemic. Everything stopped and some of us didn’t constantly check our phones because the news was just too much. Most of us won’t admit to enjoying the time when everything was shut down because that time was a period of horrible suffering and financial disaster for many of our neighbors not too far down the road. I’ve heard people express guilt over enjoying last summer just so much. Fair enough.

But in quiet conversations, with close friends who know what we mean and what we don’t, some of us will admit – there was sometime beautiful and good about the world slowing down. 

What were the things we needed a break from? Maybe it was stressful, long hours at our jobs. Maybe it was overwhelming responsibilities in caring for loved ones. But for most of my friends, it was a break from the things we do for our kids and for our leisure. It was a little bit like when someone says they need a vacation from their vacation. We needed a break from the things we do for rest, from the maintenance of our comfortable, leisurely, overwhelming lifestyle. If these sounds like first world problems, well, they are. 

In the gospel, Jesus gives the apostles an emphatic command. He says, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” No parable, no clever question to get his followers to think, Jesus just straight up commands them to take a break.

This is the kind of commandment even the least motivated of Jesus’ followers should be able to pull off right? As a Christian, how good are you at doing things that actually give you rest? That’s what I thought, same here. 

We do a number of things that we think will give us rest, only which actually stress us out further. We want rest, but we turn our hobbies and fun into more work. We want joy, but are so focused on entertainment or pleasure we miss the goodness right in front of us. We want peace, but we listen to and watch true-crime podcasts/shows which unsettle us. 

It would seem to me we live in the era of constant stimulation and productivity. We fail at rest. 

Good news, Jesus gives us the formula for rest. Here are the 3 components that make up Jesus’ formula for rest:

  1. Come Away – The first component is that we must remove ourselves from our day to day. This sounds like a burden or another thing to do, but we don’t have to get on an airplane or take a week off of work to do this. One way is to simply close our eyes. It’s amazing how far away we can go if we just close our eyes and eliminate that stimulus. 
  2. By Yourselves – Jesus says this to his disciples and I think he is speaking in the plural. For us, it may mean we go alone. Being alone and loneliness are two very different things and there is great spiritual benefit to time alone. Consider taking your rest alone if possible. If not alone, then doing this with only the most trusted and closest people in your life is another good option. 
  3. To a Deserted Place – If your home is like mine, I feel like it is full of stuff I need to clean or a person who distracts me from the rest I’m seeking. While we probably can’t remove the other members of our households whenever we feel like, I think it is helpful to carve out a deserted location where we live. One way is to create a sacred space which we reserve for our times of rest. In our house it is a particular couch in a room without screens (and into which we don’t bring our screens), and a wall of crucifixes and crosses behind us. Honestly if we just cut screens that’s probably deserted enough to make a difference. 

When sprinting on the overstimulated, overworked, over entertained treadmill, it’s hard to imagine stepping off ever for a moment, but we should try. Jesus command us to rest. 

LIVE IT: Try the formula 3 times this next week. Come away by yourself to a deserted place for 10-15 minutes 3 times in 7 days. Don’t do anything. Just rest. If you like it, do it again next week. 

Sleep and Discipleship.

March 25th Sunday Readings.alexandra-gorn-471463-unsplash

When I was in my 20’s I had a Holy Hour in the Adoration Chapel at HNOJ from midnight to one a.m. I really liked this time slot because I was usually the only one in the chapel, which allowed me to really focus. The only problem with this time slot was that it was at the end of what was usually a 12-14 hour work day in youth ministry with a gap between the end of ministry 10 p.m. and the start of my hour 12 a.m.

One night in particular I was so tired and as I knelt down at 12:02 a.m. in the chapel, I prayed that God would use that hour of prayer in whatever way he desired. The next thing I knew, I was awoken by the sound of the outside door unlocking. I bowed my head reverentially realizing that it was one a.m. and I had slept for my entire Holy Hour.

As I left the chapel and the next adorer settled in, I felt tremendous guilt because I could hear the words Jesus says to Peter in the gospel this Sunday, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” I couldn’t stay awake for one hour with Jesus. Terrible.

Later that week, I was confessing this story to a friend. At the end, he simply said, “You’re wrong.” He went on to explain that I had prayed that God use that hour as he desired and the fact I slept the entire time seemed to indicate that the way he wanted to use it was for me to rest. My friend went on to say that rest and laziness are two, seriously different, things.

Rest is an essential aspect to discipleship. Jesus rested. If we are disciples of Jesus and disciples try and follow the example of the master, then we need to rest too. The problem is that we confuse rest with entertainment, amusement, and the satisfaction of our physical desires. Have you ever gotten back from a vacation and needed another vacation? Me too.

In addition, we can get all turned around on rest. Some people “work for the weekend.” In other words, they act as if the purpose of life is entertainment while work is just what we have to do in order to get to the good parts of life. When one lives like this, their “rest” actually becomes their work. And most of their life is spent doing something they despise.

Both of these traps keep us from actually seeking the kind of rest that we need and desire. When we seek amusement, we often don’t get the rest we need. When our time-off is our focus, it is a slippery slope towards constantly seeking pleasure and serving ourselves. Neither end well.

So how do we rest? It sounds overly simplistic, but the answer really is to rest near to God. The answer, like so many things, is to not only give God our work, burdens, and sufferings, but to give God our leisure, fun, and rest. The second thing that I think helps is actually resting. Turn off everything. Block out some time on Sunday afternoon to really, truly rest. (Don’t be ashamed to nap.)

Live It:
Prayer a blessing over each weekend. On Friday when everyone is home from work or school. Or when you are all in the car heading to whatever. Say a short prayer of blessing over your weekend, asking God to help you rest. Here is an example if you need one:

“Generous and loving God;
We thank you for this week of work and learning.
As we turn our attention to the weekend, we ask your Holy Spirit to come and bless us these next two days.
Be present Lord in our play, relaxation, and rest. Help us to rest in your Spirit so that we may love and serve you with our of our strength. Amen.”