Lesson 1: I Need Rest
You’ve probably already noticed how we tend to live for those vacations, even if their just a weekend. We call them “vacations” because we “vacate” the rhythms of daily routines and get away. We have high expectations for vacations too. We expect them to excite us; to infuse us with a sense of how good life can be. We expect them to be the climax to our work, or at least the counter-balance to the mundaneness of our work. And perhaps most of all, we expect them to refresh us in such a way that when we come back to work we’re rested and energized to get back to it. Do they work? Do they make you more excited about coming back to your daily routine or less? Are you rested on that first day back? They do get some important things right. They do remind you that there is more to life than just the daily grind. While they fall short of life fulfillment, they do give you a taste of something more. And they remind us that all work and no play simply leads to burnout. Vacations point us to the rest that we intuitively know we need.
Another expectation we have of vacations is to protect us from burnout. Statistics tell us they don’t work. Forbes magazine included a story a few years ago about burnout. The signs, they say, are these:
- Lack of motivation
- Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions
- Cognitive Problems
- Slipping Job Performance
- Interpersonal Problems at Home and at Work
- Not Taking Care of Yourself
- Being Preoccupied With Work … When You’re Not at Work
- Generally Decreased Satisfaction
- Health Problems
Ever experienced some or all of these? According to Forbes, the answer is found in:
- Take Relaxation Seriously
- Cultivate a Rich Non-Work Life
- Get Enough Sleep
- Get Organized
- Stay Attuned
- Know When It’s You, and When It’s Them
All of these are good advice. I say that not because it “makes sense” but because it overlaps with God’s answer – the Sabbath. Jesus explained, “The Sabbath was made for man…” (Mk 2:27) God made it specifically to fit the way we were made. Let that sink in a minute. Somehow we have misconstrued the Sabbath as a burden. It gets in the way of finishing homework or the “fun” activities that we expect to give us that last “taste” of the good life before we go back to the daily routine. In other words, we tend to look at it like the Pharisees did – as a work. But since we reject works-righteousness, we tend to reject the Sabbath. But when we do that, we miss the point of it altogether. The Sabbath is the balm of the gospel. Jesus goes on to explain, “…So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:28) This is why Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28) There is rest in the gospel. It is the Old Testament that shows how to apply this balm. It teaches us to rest every seventh day. It is to be part of our weekly routine. In that day we stop our work and remember God. He, not our work, ultimately sustains us. We also remember that he redeems life. He set us free from the idols that once held us captive, work being perhaps the biggest one from our culture. The rhythm of the Sabbath brings us back to ultimate reality and protects us from the bonds of our culture’s idols.
Lesson 2: I Need Community
I am an introvert. I like my alone time. I like the quietness of a book over the hustle and bustle of large groups. And yet there are moments when I come back from a gathering and find out how much I appreciated it. It doesn’t always happen. When it does, it’s because I got to share a bit of my soul or a bit of a friend’s. In those moments of sharing I often find out things about myself that I wasn’t consciously aware of. Somehow, sharing brings it out in a way that might otherwise never happen.
Psychologists and counselors tell us this is why we need close friends. I agree, mostly. Paul prays for the Ephesians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:16-19 NIV) In Paul’s prayer we find that community is the goal and the means to the fullness of God. In other words, you can’t experience this fullness without community. It brings you into a deeper understanding of God (in this example His love) just as it brings you into a deeper understanding of yourself.
But to experience this level of community, it you have to commit to one another. It doesn’t magically happen. You have to get to the point of trust and willingness to share issues of the heart with each other. That can’t happen when you’re not committed to one another. By commitment I mean things as difficult as being available when unforeseen needs arise and as simple as making small groups and worship a priority. When I host a small group and people don’t show up, it hurts. I know the reasons and sometimes they are unavoidable. But I still feel like I’ve been left out in the cold.
Lesson 3: I Need to be Part of the Church’s Mission
As a pastor maybe this seems self-serving, but it is none-the-less true. God has invited, no commanded, us to be involved in the work of making disciples. When we’re not, everything else inevitably gets out of whack. Something has to fill in that void. Is it work? Is it family? That thing, no matter how good it is, gets put into a position it was never meant to serve and consequently puts it under stress. Think about Jesus’ words to those who would put off the work of discipleship.
[Jesus] said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:59-62)
These don’t seem like bad excuses to me. But Jesus comes down pretty hard on them. Is Jesus uncaring to those who have lost loved ones? Is Jesus not concerned about our families? Of course he is concerned. That’s not the point. The point is the significance of the mission and it’s place of significance in our own discipleship. It isn’t long after this passage that Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Lk 10:2)
Where are you in these lessons? Let’s encourage one another in them.