We can read in Matthew 11:28 that Jesus said, "“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This scripture promise has always been so beautiful and intriguing to me. Here is a fun look back at something I wrote almost twenty years ago when I was twenty-eight, Katie was four and Kory was one:
It has been a hectic day. As a stay-at-home Mom / minister’s wife, I know that I do not have the kind of days that people with full time jobs outside of the home do. Before our first daughter was born, I taught school all day and then was a part of the ministry the rest of every day and night, so I am not complaining. But today was one of those days.
We were up very late last night with our annual Christmas banquet. Our girls had a wonderful time and went to bed happy but exhausted. Unfortunately, Friday is a school day for my preschooler, so 8:00 came early to two sleepyheads. Make the lunch, deliver her to school, then off to do the grocery shopping. But first return the stereo system we borrowed from one of the students, and then return the communion dishes to the church. Put away the groceries, put the baby down for a nap, start the laundry. Wrap a present for the bridal shower I’m hosting tonight for one of our student couples, then make the centerpieces for the cake and punch tables, and get the baby up from her nap. Feed the baby, pick up the preschooler and the dry cleaning while I’m out. Home again, finish the laundry, give the girls a snack, gather the rest of the things I’ll need for the shower, and head over to the student center to clean and decorate. Pick up the cake and punch ingredients on the way. Four hours later, after a successful shower and all the cleanup, return home exhausted. One of those days.
At the end of a day like this, I always make a beeline to one place before I try to do anything else. I still had several things left to do before I could climb into bed, but I set those aside for a minute while I headed to my pajama drawer. Tonight as I was hanging up my dress, putting away my dress shoes, and getting those awful pantyhose off (finally), I put on my flannel-lined winter pajamas and my warm slippers, and I literally felt all of the day’s stress fall away. It was such a strong sensation that it made me stop and take notice. The simple act of putting on my pajamas and slippers actually changed the way my mind and body felt. I suddenly ceased to feel rushed or stressed at all, and I felt my spirits rise. The rest of the night was slow and pleasant. The girls got supper and a bath, and went to bed happily. I was able read a little while and then actaully talk to my husband when he got home. LIfe is better when I am in my pajamas.
Then I thought about how Jesus said what He did in the scripture verse, “Come unto me, you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus Himself offers us comfort. He says come unto me, and I will lift your burdens. Just as I make a beeline for the pajama drawer at the end of a stressful day, I need to make a beeline for time with Him…
That was just about as far as I got as a twenty-eight year old . But now, with twenty more years of life and ministry under my belt, I do have a few thoughts, observations and convictions about living a life infused with purposeful rest in the Lord.
Three decades in university campus ministry have given us a unique perspective on modern life. We see, up close and personal, the results of the modern mindset. The students of today have been raised by parents with the latest philosophies and world-views. and we plainly see the shattering results of selfishness. People do what is “right” for themselves - multiple marriages and divorces, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity and also taking sexual advantage of kids, emotional abuse, a life ignoring God… the list goes on and on, and we have seen the devastation this brings to the children raised in such “free” atmospheres. I am never fooled by the lies that say people can do whatever they want because it doesn’t impact anyone else. Wrong. It devastates the children raised in such chaos, and leaves them confused, bitter and lost as they enter adulthood.
There is one more seemingly innocuous part of modern life that also has great impact on all of us and our children, and that is our rush to do more and more with each day. We are all guilty of this. Advancements in technology have let us do more and be more connected than ever. Society has evolved to demand each of us participate in many things to the fullest - sports, work, school, other extra-curricular activities, and even church - we are maxed out on time and committment.
Interestingly, ease of travel has made it so we are all able to be at events very far removed from where we live. We go to weddings across the country, soccer games several counties away, and conferences on the other side of the state. Just this week, Eli and traveled to a city four hours away twice for different events. This is a relatively new development in life on earth. I actually have a newspaper clipping my grandmother gave me from 1948, when the family had an article written about them for taking a vacation from Texas to Missouri, so unusual was far-flung travel.
All of these things we participate in are good, and can be a very important and healthy part of a life well-spent. However, we should not wonder why we are all so frazzled and exhausted all the time. We are maxed out and missing one very important thing, and that is a healthy rhythm of work and rest.
We can read plainly in the opening chapters of Genesis that at the very beginning, God Himself modeled great and purposeful work for six days followed by a wonderful day of rest. He also created us with a built-in mechanism to knock us totally our for about a third of each day. Have you ever thought about how interesting sleep is? We are gone to the world for a significant part of every day - totally vulnerable and dependent on Someone Else to keep us alive and safe.
If those things were not enough to give us the message that we must have planned and purposeful rest in our lives, God included in the list of just 10 Commandments, “Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.” This is not a long list - of all of the things in the world, God included purposeful rest as one of His top ten things not to be ignored. Imagine if we treated all of the other nine as flippantly as we do this one. Murder? Adultery? Theft? We know how awful it is to break these. The command to rest is just as significant as these other commandments, yet not commonly observed. We must at least consider that we might be doing great harm to ourselves and our society when we refuse to stop.
I taught a class to college students this past fall about some of these ideas. They were so surprised when I told them that when I was young, all of the three TV channels played the national anthem at midnight, and then signed off until morning. There was nothing but static all night long. No one believed me! I asked them why the store 7-11 is called 7-11 - and they had no idea. (Those were the hours of operation, and they were stunningly generous at the time.) Everything used to close for the day every day at about dinner time, and nothing at all was open on Sunday but the churches. This, of course, is not even touching the great curse of our day, the smart phone. This can glow all night long, robbing us of sleep and brain cells as we read yet another page of tweets or more facts about whatever it is. We look upon all of these things as improvements in society, but are we improved?
For the next two weeks, I hope to share with you some things we have learned about keeping a healthy pattern of work and rest. For now and as a simple starting place, let 28-year-old me, who was just beginning to investigate this idea of planned and purposeful rest, finish her thoughts…
Jesus and the Bible refresh my spirit every day. He really can and does deliver what He promised - Rest. Spending time with the Lord in worship, prayer, meditation and reading is a way to put on spiritual pajamas, and to experience that same kind of real and noticeable refreshing I felt at the end of my long day.
It doesn't matter what time of day you choose to make time for devotional time, nor does it matter what you do for meditation. Some days it is nice to read the Bible and think about it for a long time; other days it is great to just listen in silence out on the porch with a cup of coffee. Singing songs of worship is another wonderful quiet time activity, as is reading a great classic Christian book. There have been hundreds of incredible Christian thinkers throughout history who have written tremendous, challenging books to help us think and grow. Lastly, sessions of deep prayer are an amazingly refreshing time. There is no more productive pastime than spending time each day fellowshipping with God, who desires to have a real relationship with each of us.
Developing a regular devotional time, and being faithful to actually do it is one of the greatest things you can do in life. It will help you stay focused, keep your priorities straight, and to keep life clear of the clutter that tries to fill it up. Let Jesus give you real rest today.
I am so pleased to announce that my first book is coming out this summer! It is a devotional book focusing on spiritual discipline that I hope will be a great tool for you to use personally or with your small group. It is available for preorder here:
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)