Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Rest

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 the Perfect ________

There was a time when I thought a lot about what I won’t be like ‘when I get older’. In my younger years I would look at my parents or older people in my church and see all the ways I wouldn’t be like them. In Bible college and seminary I often thought (if no consciously, then subconsciously) about how so many pastors had compromised and failed and how there were no excuses for them being the way they were. I wasn’t going to be like them.

‘When I’m a husband / pastor / father / homeowner / (fill in the blank), I will do it differently…’.

Underlying thoughts like that is a failure, I’ve learned, to recognize the fallenness of the world. There’s a myth being perpetrated by the devil and the world — a myth gladly accepted and amplified by my sin nature — that I, unlike every human, will do it right. It’s a temptation for young people everywhere and it is one of the reasons why I think people wait longer to get married, to settle in a career, to have children, etc. The myth is this: If you look hard enough and wait long enough, you find the perfect spouse. You, unlike your friends, can find the perfect car. The perfect house. The perfect ________.

Though far from perfect, thankfully, our house is in better shape than this one.

But here’s the thing: no wife is perfect. No husband is perfect. No house, car, job, or anything else is perfect. It’s all broken. This side of the new creation, everything will fail us and disappoint us.

But quite apart from being a discouragement (though it may sound depressing), I’ve found it to be actually quite freeing. As soon as I realized that it is ‘okay’ for my house to not be perfect, I didn’t need to it justify me any more. When I stop and remember that it’s ‘okay’ for my family to not be perfect, it frees me from comparisons and the desires to compare and compete. For those still looking for a husband / wife, it is freeing to know that no matter how long you wait and how carefully you choose, you’ll still get a fixer-upper of a spouse. That’s life.

What’s been so freeing for me in this is that it gives me the ability to just simply enjoy things for what they are. I can enjoy my wife without worrying about how to ‘fix’ her flaws (which more often than not are my fault anyway). I can enjoy my house without worrying about making it ‘perfect’ (since it will never get there anyway).

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that we don’t pray and labour for God’s perfect kingdom to come and to work in this world. It doesn’t mean that we don’t strive to be holy as he is holy. It doesn’t mean that I don’t labour to wash my bride with the pure water of the word (or accept challenges and corrections from her). It doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard to raise my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. But realizing that the notion perfection of anything this side of glory is a myth is freeing when I feel the pressure to perform or achieve up to a standard I simply can’t attain.

All this also helps me to appreciate my parents and those older in the faith as well. They haven’t attained perfection, and some of the flaws I observed were accurate. But now I understand and feel a little bit more of why they’re not perfect… because I’ve seen it in myself and in my world.

I hope that as I age I continue to find balance between striving for perfection and finding perfect rest in the perfection to come. When I find this balance, I find it enables me to, as someone has said, ‘work like an Arminian and sleep like a Calvinist.’ I like that.

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

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 **

Things That Never Get Old

I took the morning off today. I took my girls for a long, long walk in their stroller, then we went to the park and played with the swings and the slide, ran around like crazy people, and played in the sand.

As we were playing, I was filled with joy and delight in all that God has given me in this life. I am overwhelmed with blessing in my life.

At the exact same time, however, I felt twinges of sadness. Why, you ask? Because I can’t remember the last time I took time and just played with my girls like that.

Life has been so busy lately. We bought a house, began renovating, and found the work that needed to be done was a lot more than we had anticipated. That, combined with the usual September busy-ness at church, has made for a long stretch of working every waking moment.

I don’t like that. Busy is not what I was created for. It robs me of joy and peace and makes me frantic and tired. It brings constant temptation to stress and anxiety (a.k.a. pride and disbelief).

Busy is not what life is for. Being busy causes me to miss out on good things. Important things. The best things.

Lately, after our day of prayer, I thought to myself, ‘I never get tired of praying. I never pray and then think that it was a waste of time. It never gets old. It’s always worth it.’ Today I had that same thought while I was playing with my girls.

That got me to thinking, what are the things in life that are always worth making time for? What are the things that never get old? What are the things you can do with your time that are always worth the investment? Here’s my first attempt at a list.

  1. Prayer — private, family, corporate prayer with brothers and sisters from church
  2. Time in the word — reading on my own, studying for preaching, sitting under preaching
  3. Going on dates with my wife — we generally just get away somewhere where we can sit and talk… I can never get enough of that
  4. Playing with my girls — especially when I haven’t wasted all my energy on everything else so that I’m too tired to enjoy them
  5. Eating meals with my family — time sitting, talking, learning fighter verses, hearing the funny things that kids think to say…
  6. Time at ‘my’ Starbucks — not that Starbucks is worth the time, but when I’m there I have a good book or just my Bible, sometimes my list of people to pray for… I sit, enjoy coffee, the change of scenery, meet with God and seek opportunities to share the gospel with the people I know there. It’s always refreshing.
  7. Preaching — I’ve found that even when I preach and feel like it was a ‘bad sermon’, I hear reports from people of how the Spirit is working in their heart. His word will not return to him void, so it’s never a waste of time to preach.
  8. Being with people — one of the saddest things that can happen in my job and in life in general is when I get so busy with ‘stuff’ that I don’t have time to be with people and open up my heart to them and have them do the same with me. The more time I have to just be with people, the more I’m amazed at how I see God in that person and the more I’m blessed by them.

These are the things that I love. I’ll never get to the end of my life and think, ‘Man, I wish I had spent less time doing those things.’ Would you have the same things on your list? What would you add / change / delete from your list?

The question I suppose I should ask is, ‘What are the things in my life that detract from these things?’ And then, is that necessary? Is it what is best?

I’m praying tonight that my God gives me grace to prioritize and wisdom to know how to find better balance so that I don’t miss out on the very things I’m put on this earth to enjoy.

Powlison’s Antipsalm 23

David Powlison writes an Antipsalm 23. He explains, ‘The antipsalm tells what life feels like and looks like whenever God vanishes from sight.’

I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I’m alone … facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”
I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death,
and then I die.

Sound too much like your life? Read Powlison’s whole article here.

HT: Between Two Worlds

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