“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” (Matthew 11: 29).
You should have seen me last Monday. My feet hit the floor at 4:30 am to stretch my back out, sip on some coffee, slip in a quick quiet time, and finally hit my 5:45 am kickboxing class at the gym. After punching and kicking for 50 minutes, I was home in time to put away dishes, finish laundry, and make pancakes for breakfast for my boys. I shooed them out the door to sports camp, dropped them off, immediately came home, and set off on an hour of deep cleaning on our master bathroom. I wrote for an hour, mowed the yard, and was back to pick my boys up by 11:30 am. The rest of my day could be summarized by shoveling down a quick lunch, feeding the boys—again, reading them a few books for rest time, letting them play Legos for an hour to decompress from the day, shuttling my wife off to VBS to work lights, racing home to feed the boys—again, throwing on our own VBS shirts, and then leading five four-year olds around four stations at VBS, trying to make a difference.
Oh sure, after that I could throw in bedtime duties, time to check in with the wife and communicate about the chaos that was our day, and time to read in my newest book, but what fun would that be? I mean, that paragraph above was already long enough, right? You’d be losing interest at some point. Hence the first few lines of paragraph two are wrapping up paragraph one. Do you ever feel like the month of June is the same for you? You’re always on the move, stopping on a dime to switch directions and try something new, only to run yourself silly and exhaust all the life out of you. That was me last week. I accomplished quite a bit, but by Sunday afternoon, when my head hit the pillow on the couch for an hour-long nap on Father’s Day after spending two hours at Scheels, I realized the need for rest was all too apparent. I made a vow to myself. This week would be different. This week I would savor the calmness of an afternoon and do … and do … well—nothing!
That is what I did yesterday afternoon for about two precious hours. I lay on the couch, tucked a few pillows under my legs, made sure the boys were okay, and just vegged. And do you know what? It was everything I had hoped it would be and MORE! I recharged enough to have the energy to fix dinner for my family and then take the wife and kids on a leisurely family walk around the block. That last half of my day was enjoyable, relaxing, and rejuvenating. All because I took the time to just slow down. Relax. Or as Johnny Diaz says in his new song Breathe, take the time to “just be.” Be present. Be in tune with God. Take your guard down for a bit and just soak in the day. How often do we let the month of June do that to us? We are so set on conquering the world with all the extra free time we have that we forget what rest truly is.
I look back on the life of Jesus for advice on how to live my life. Yes, He was certainly moving from place to place to heal the sick, spread God’s love, and fulfill the promises the prophets spoke of, but sometimes we forget the times He just chilled out. Before Jesus calmed the storm in Mark 4, He was sleeping with His head on a cushion in the boat. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane for some quiet time with God. Or what about the prophet Elijah? When he collapsed from exhaustion under the broom tree, and angel greeted him there telling him to arise and eat (1 Kings 19). Sometimes we are so set on fulfilling a checklist that will truly never all be accomplished that we forget the importance of quieting our souls. The prophet Jeremiah says this about God: “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31: 25).
Last week’s challenge about fulfilling God’s bucket list is important to consider, but it is equally important to find those moments when you can simply block out the distractions from the world and listen to God. Take the time to lay in a hammock in your backyard. Listen to the birds. Watch a sunrise. Sit on your back porch and watch the fireflies at night. Enjoy an afternoon sunbathing at the pool. Put your smartphone away and just breathe. (Or be like me and just get a 2005 prepaid flip phone that does nothing but store phone numbers and call others, eliminating all distractions in the first place.) Don’t let the busyness of summer run you silly. At the very least, get out that summer bucket list that you started last week and add one last item to the agenda: relax.
(I listen to Johnny Diaz’s song “Breathe” quite often in the morning when I am getting ready for my quiet time. It is an awesome reminder that we all need to take the time to relax at the cross and give our burdens to Jesus. Listen to the song below.)