Beware the Barrenness of a Busy Life
The title phrase is attributed to both Socrates and Corrie Ten Boom. Regardless of who said it first, I can attest to its truth. I’ve long been one who makes detailed to-do lists, manages my calendar closely, and focuses on getting things done. If being busy is good, then I am awesome! That all sounds great, right?
But what if the wrong things are on my list?
The tug of war between what I want to do and what I must do is a constant battle. Here’s a news flash for you: retirement hasn’t helped. The days are still busy, the list is too long, and the striving to get to its end never-ending. Sometimes I wonder how I ever had time to have a job.
For the last four years I’ve been taking courses, listening to teachings, and participating in men’s groups. Recently, and to great advantage, I’ve been delving into the mysteries and benefits of combining physical and spiritual meditation. This, along with keeping up a normal family life, managing the property, and doing a bit of consulting. All good, but I am feeling the pangs of trying to do too much. It is good to pursue God’s heart with our own. It is not good to make it a religious activity, and the same can be said for the worldly things we engage with.
Knowing that one is out of balance is the easy part. Knowing what to lay down to make life richer, deeper, and more meaningful is the hard part. We can reverse engineer the answer to some extent, however. What is it that we are missing? Is it relationship and intimacy with God or family? Is it time alone to spend reflecting, dreaming, or creating? Is it that hobby I never picked up? Knowing what is missing in our lives is a key to knowing what is taking its place.
As I was meditating and pondering this conundrum one recent morning, God spoke to me clearly: “Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve done from the Seat of Rest.” That got my attention! After all, God has done some stuff. His Word tells us just how important rest is.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-3 (ESV)
Jesus knew how important it is to have time away from the hustle of life, as He instructed the apostles after they finished telling Him of all their works and while surrounded by people clamoring for their attention.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 (NIV)
In my paraphrase, I believe what Jesus was telling them was this: Yes, you’ve worked hard and done good works of which you can be proud. And yes, the world still clamors, as it always will. There will always be more work to do. But now, this time, is one for quiet, peace, and rest which will restore your soul and spirit.
The difference between the apostles and Jesus in this moment is that He recognized the higher need, and it wasn’t taking care of all the pressing needs that surrounded them. The higher need was for them to turn to Him, into Him, to experience the peace and rest that only He can bring, because it resides in Him.
I can sometimes get lost in scripture, completely subsumed by it, and it is a marvelous thing. In these moments there is a sense of rest, peace, and tranquility that I do not experience elsewhere. In these moments I can feel my physical body slowing down and taking a breath, I can sense my spiritual being soaking in His presence, letting all my cares dissolve into Him. In these moments I truly feel I am one with Him. The peace is real. Being IN His presence is real. These moments are what I yearn for in my heart, to be so lost in Him that His peace becomes my peace because we are one (John 17:21-23).
This peace awaits us no matter where we are or what we are experiencing, but we must take hold of it and make it our own. How? By resting in Him, by becoming one with Him. Then we can claim His promise, and the world, no matter its state, will be one soul and spirit closer to its own peace and rest.
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest,” Exodus 33:14 (TLV)
That sounds a lot better than my normal hurrying and scurrying to get through the day, and it is something I am willing to trade into by pursuing it, even at the cost of a few boxes left unchecked.