Rest is Renewal, Not Retreat

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photo by Sara McAllister

My first year of church planting consisted in a weekly psychological cycle that sounded, with only slight exaggeration, something like this:

Tuesday: Okay, I guess it’s back to the grind. But nobody is keeping tabs on me so I don’t have to punch in at 9:00am. Say—what’s happening on Twitter?? Anyone want to get lunch?

Wednesday: Hump Day already! I better get the house ready for Community Group. Sheesh I’m such a slob—I need to cut the grass. … Okay, that was fun, I’m glad these people came over, and aren’t they nice for the helping clean up? Now, let’s get these kids to bed so we can watch TV!

Thursday: Oh crap I’ve got 2 sermons to preach on Sunday. And 2 bulletins to put together. And music to pick. Oh man. Maybe I’ll just check email instead. And maybe someone wants to meet up for coffee. Regardless, 6pm will be here soon. And then 8pm. And then … TV!

Friday: Ok man, focus. This is it. … Wow, I burned through that to-do list. But there’s still these sermons. Oh gosh. Well, there’s still Saturday. And Sunday before morning worship. And Sunday afternoon. It’ll be ok.

Saturday: Everyone else has their weekend, but I’ve got to be a man and focus on my work. It’s just part of my duty. Midnight? 2am? Whatever it takes. I’m in the Lord’s Army, yes sir.

Sunday: It’s nice that everyone else get’s to experience this as a Sabbath. I don’t, but that’s ok. There’s tomorrow. And tomorrow there’s TV. And sleeping.

Monday: This is my day. People better not bug me. I’ve got lots of TV to watch, and lots of sleep to catch up on.

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Essentially that cycle breaks down into 4 phases:

  1. Unfocused, unproductive busy-work followed by nightly mini-retreats with the TV
  2. Panicked, world-renouncing, urgent work in loooooonnnnggg stretches at a time
  3. Cathartic, caffeine-fueled “performance”
  4. Crash and hibernate

Or you could break it down like this:

  1. Avoiding
  2. Striving

If I was abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit, being pruned and growing, I never noticed. I was too “busy” being connected on Facebook or too busy playing catch up.

This is not sane. Don’t do this.

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Instead, you’ve got to quit prolonging and longing for retreat, and begin infusing your days and weeks with true rest, which looks a lot more like renewal than retreat. I’m learning how to do this, and it’s making me a much happier camper. And—wouldn’t you know it???!!—I sense that Jesus is bearing fruit in me and I’m abiding in him.

Do I feel like I’ve got my weekly rhythm completely figured out? No, not yet. But I’ve finally begun to experience every day as an opportunity to be renewed through carefully-selected, purposeful inputs—usually a life-giving book or a rejuvenating nap instead of social media meh and TV trances. And I sense that I’m beginning to see fruit emerge every day—from trees that I’ve consciously been cultivating.

I’ll be posting more in the weeks ahead about this slow but deliberate transformation from a striving/avoiding cycle to a fruiting/abiding rhythm. But for now, the power of this simple proverb is in its ability to help you discern what kind of life you’re living as a kingdom laborer.

Rest is Renewal, Not Retreat.

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4 thoughts on “Rest is Renewal, Not Retreat

  1. Pingback: Sleep When You Want to Sleep | Gardens Don't Launch

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