Recently, when reading the classic book, Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster, I was deeply challenged by what he said. The following are his words about taking time to create a or go to a retreat to study Holy Scriptures.
“Some of my most profitable experiences of study have come through structuring a private retreat of two to three days’ duration. No doubt you will object that, given your schedule, you cannot possibly find that kind of time. I want you to know that it is no easier for me to set aside the time than for anyone else. I fight and struggle for every retreat, scheduling it into my datebook many weeks in advance. I have suggested this idea to many groups and found that professional people with busy schedules, laborers with rigid schedules, homemakers with multiple schedules, and others can, in fact, find time for a private study retreat. I have discovered the most difficult problem is not finding time but convincing myself that it is important enough to set aside time for.”
We are fast approaching the summer months, a time of rest and relaxation for many, but also a time to simply keep moving with the daily grind for others. In the liturgical calendar (that is the schedule of the difference seasons, holy days and observances that we practice) for our church body and most of Christianity, we are entering into the Season of the Church. This season is represented by the color of green on the altar, pulpit, lectern and the stole around a pastor’s neck. The way I have always considered the purpose of the green color for this season was that it is a season of growth and maturity as the Christian Church founded on Jesus Christ grew exponentially. But green is also, for me, a color of rest and retreat, it is the color of the trees outside and the woods beckoning me to spend some time in their shade and simply be in God’s creation.
It is this combination of growth and rest, of maturity through retreat, that most challenges me, as I make my own plans for this summer.
Normally, we don’t think of growth and rest as compatible terms, but they are, our biology teaches us that. Recently in our house we have had a tsunami of illness, from mom’s blood clot in her lungs, upper respiratory infections, acute asthma problems, stomach flu and on and on… (I’m completely surprised that I have not had any of these things yet, but I guess that’s just so one of us is still left standing to take care of everyone else!) But what we have seen as a family, over and over again through this whole process, is that all of us needs rest. Sleeping absolutely! But also some rest in the fresh air (when the pollen isn’t bad!) and even resting in each other’s company when we’re all too beat to do anything else but sit together. Simply to rest.
We needed and need to rest because our bodies need to heal, to fight the infections, for my kids especially— to grow. Rest and growth, sleep and health, go hand in hand. We rest so we can heal and grow. This is counterintuitive for us. We think of growing as active, struggling and striving, cramming stuff in and working hard, growing. Which is true, but what if in all of our striving-cramming-growing we forgot about this other way of growing?
Think about these passages from Scripture:
“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a
“Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out” I Kings 19:11-13b
This passage especially about Elijah, who was working hard and was exhausted and dismayed because it seemed like all of the hard work he did was for nothing. But when God came to talk to him, he wasn’t in the loud work of the earthquake or the fire, but in the whisper, the still quiet voice.
The thing about resting in the Lord is that it is intentionally done. Just like we intentionally have a bedroom, bed, comfy blankets and a place to go to sleep to grow; resting with the Lord is intentional as well. It is done on purpose.
That is my encouragement for you and for me these next few summer months, to intentionally rest in the Lord. Even my church family ministry program schedule is lighter these coming months so that we can spend some time resting, and in particular resting in worship, study and prayer.
Because, and this is important, if our only idea of resting is mai tai’s by the pool, binge watching Netflix, or hiking and fishing forever, those are good things, but what are we growing into by resting in those ways? Sure, some of it will be good, some of it not so much, like growing in our knowledge of Netflix may not be the best use of our time! But are we spending our time growing in the Lord by resting in the Lord?
This summer rest in Jesus. Rest in Jesus’ embrace in some really good prayer time. Sleep during the sermons but rest in God’s house during worship. Rest in God’s Word by really and truly reading some of it and meditating on what it means. Make/have/find a spiritual bedroom where you go to rest in Jesus and spend your quiet time there.
so you can grow,
when you grow,
you become more and more like Jesus.