Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Sabbath

Sleeping While the Kingdom Grows

My family just returned from a couple weeks of vacation. It was a glorious opportunity to play, to sleep, to relax, to read good books, to spend time together — in short, to rest. What a blessing to be able to experience something of the balance that God intended when he established the rhythm of the universe in creation: day and night, work and rest.

It is one thing to preach about this harmony in Genesis 1 (as I did a few months ago) and another thing completely to experience it. God ordered his creation in this way, work and rest, and it continues to function in the same way through all the generations of humanity.

I’ve been thinking, however, about the need for continuing this balance on a micro scale (day & night, week & weekend), as well as on a macro scale (work 49 weeks & get three off). It seems to me that failure to attain true and meaningful rest in the midst of labour is one of the main reasons why pastors burn out so frequently.

It’s not hard to see why. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the pastor’s work is never really finished. There is always more to study, more people to meet with, more to pray about. Things are never organized enough and long-term vision has never been developed enough. That’s to say nothing of the constant, urgent demands on a pastor’s time because of genuine problems in people’s lives.

So pastors often do what the world does. We read time management books and strategize. We come up with systems to ‘get things done.’ We work harder and harder to be more productive in the hopes that we’ll somehow attain that ever-elusive moment of rest when everything is finally done.

But it’s never done. And that’s the thing. If we wait for things to be finished before we rest, we’ll never rest. And we simply can’t sustain that. And that’s not the way we’ve been designed to live.

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The Myth of Rest

This morning I woke up tired. Yesterday I woke up tired. The day before that… well, you get the idea.

But it didn’t used to be like this. I remember the day. It was sometime near the beginning of my second year of seminary. We had been through a move, renovations, pregnancy, having our first daughter, and me starting a new job at the church, all within the past year. I was taking a full course-load at TBS (including languages) and working near full-time at the church with a newborn at home. The year before I had taken about 1.5 times the full course-load because I wanted to get a running start. It was a good thing I did.

I woke up that morning and I was tired, frustrated, and angry. The world seemed at that moment, dark (because it was… it was before 6am in a basement apartment in the winter in Canada) and hopeless. I was drained. While my spirits weren’t necessarily broken, my body was, and my mind was too. I wanted to give up. There just simply wasn’t enough time to get everything done. I knew there was no stopping, and there would be no catching up any time soon. What I didn’t realize then was that there would be no catching up from that point on… probably for good.

There’s never enough time for sleep. Never enough time to finish all my jobs. Never enough time to stop and rest.

Vacations have come and gone and seasons have been busier than others, but overall I’m still tired. One daughter has turned into three, our basement apartment turned into one house (with lots of renovations) and then another house, part-time pastoring turned into full-time pastoring and church-planting, and I’ve gotten older. Life has not slowed down. I don’t think it will.

Being tired used to scare me. It used to paralyse me. It used to make me panic and wonder, ‘when will I ever get the rest I need?!’ Now I try, on my better days, to remember that the tiredness and lack-of-rest that I feel is part of being in this fallen creation. It is a result of sin. But it won’t last forever. In the New Heavens and the New Earth I will know the rest for which I was created. I’ll sleep then.

In the mean time, I’m thankful for the gospel of Jesus which speaks to weary, performance-worn people.

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Thankfully, though the work is hard this side of eternity, Jesus promises true rest in the life to come. And in the meantime he gives grace and provides strength. And he lets us feel our tiredness and our weakness for our good. After all, I must remember that there is only one who does not sleep or slumber. And my tiredness serves to remind me daily that I’m not that one.

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** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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