For many of us, one of the hardest things we ever do is doing nothing. Incredibly difficult, disciplining ourselves to find some regular time to do nothing is the best way to make the doings that we do, when the time is right for doing, worth something once the doing’s done. When we never really rest, we just end up done in, and much of the doing becomes dry dust bereft of real meaning.
If you found it difficult to make your way out of that last first paragraph, it’s because it’s its own frenetic illustration of our lives, bouncing so rapidly from one “doing” to the next, and the next, and the next, that it almost never stops. The Brits call a “period” at the end of a sentence a “full stop.” And an occasional full stop is exactly what we desperately need.
At least, our Creator seems to think so. He thought that a regular time to rest was important enough for the well-being of the humans he created in his image that he devoted one of the Ten Commandments to it. Even God rested on the seventh day of creation.
Dallas Willard once observed that “the command is ‘Do No Work.’” What that means, he says, is as simple as it is difficult: “Just make space. Attend to what is around you. Learn that you don’t have to do to be. Accept the grace of doing nothing.” And, knowing us well, he says, “Stay with it until you stop jerking and squirming.” (And texting!)
Oh, but we do jerk. We do squirm. And we have a very hard time just “making space” even for a few moments.
What is “urgent” crowds out the truly important. (How many texts do you get in a day that deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the word “important”?)
What is loud floods our ears continually and drowns out the silence that can fill our souls with meaning if we just stop long enough to let it in.
What is garish and glitzy blasts our eyes with counterfeit color and flash-blinds us to the real beauty and joy we could see all around us if we’d just be still long enough (and unglue our eyes from our screens long enough) to look around and see it. But most of the time we’re moving so fast with our thumbs or our feet that life itself becomes a dreary blur.
I think it was Dallas Willard again who commented that rest and diversion are not the same things. We all enjoy some occasional diversion. A “run fast and play hard” vacation at times is fine, but don’t be surprised when you come home more tired than when you left, and your soul is still hungering for some real rest.
Living life continually at high speeds is unsafe. Wrecks happen and people get hurt. Relationships suffer as we bump into each other and crash into solid objects like exhaustion and reality. We weren’t made to run this fast, this continually.
And so our bodies, our minds, and the objects and people we bump into often end up forcing us to stop, whether we like it or not. I wonder how much depression, migraines, gut maladies—and on the list goes—are really our bodies/minds saying, “You won’t stop on your own, fool? Pull over. I bet I can stop you for a while.”
As always, our Creator is telling us the truth. Our souls desperately need some genuine rest.
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Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.