Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest". Mark 6:31, NIV
So, it's not an original thought. Someone posted it on FaceBook and it seemed to be a pretty accurate assessment of this new life in the 70's. Not the 1970's. That was fifty years ago. No, age 70, the birthday my classmates and I started celebrating in 2019. The FB lament went something like this----"I cruised through the fifties and sixties. Now the check engine light flashes more often." Yes, it's true for most of my generational cohort. You know the famed baby boomers, all 71.4 million of us. We're slowing down, keeping shorter days, and using our devices to keep the memory synapses functioning. The generation that snarled at rocking chairs, raised finger gestures to anything that resembles or sounds like retirement, and continues to hold sway in the business world is learning the value of refreshment. Finally.
Most Americans are tired. That's a relatively tame wording. The truth is that a great many of us are weary---tired, worn, burned out, burned up, empty. A recent American Safety Council survey indicated that 43% of American adults are too tired to function adequately (Click here to read the report). Even with so many jazzy enhancements for vacation, time off the clock, recreational opportunities, and just simple fun and games, we have the work ethic capacity to make everything another day on the job. I mean, can competitive axe throwing be all that restful. Zooming in the traffic of exponential times, we've allowed the blessings of genuine refreshment to become minor rest areas easy to speed past.
Jesus saw the times weighing on his disciples. He knew their burdens in that first century world---the rigors of travel, time pressures, their spiritual concerns for others, service to the multitudes who followed Jesus, and the added stress of dealing with dissension and opposition. Mark made note of it in the theme verse referenced above. It's another recurring topic in the Gospels, how Jesus always knew what was happening in the lives of the people around him---
Jesus knew their thoughts...
Matthew 12:25, NIV
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking... Mark 2: 8, NIV
Jesus knew what they were thinking...or knew their thoughts... Luke 5:22; Luke 6:8, 11:17, NIV
As usual, there are others which depict his knowledge of people and their personal needs. He knew what was in them (John 2:25, NIV) because "...he knew all people" (John 2:24, NIV). So, his invitation that they step aside for food and rest was an essential element of their following him. If they were going to finish what God had given as their life purpose they would need to take Step 5, The Step Away: The Step of Refreshment.
The step away is the discipline of regularly walking away from the treadmill of everyday
life for rest, relaxation, recreation, refreshment, recovery, and restoration.
Weariness is one of the exit ramps in life mission. Every layer of human leadership requires regular moments of down time . Pastors, teachers, parents, people with influence in our homes, businesses, and churches must step away from life demands on occasion to experience moments of personal renewal and refreshment. We're not all superheroes with unending supplies of energy and strength. The people over in the Psychology Department remind us that decision making, strategic deployment, use of resources, and mission fulfillment are all hindered when the machinery is depleted. We're mortal beings and must be restored regularly.
Stepping away isn't auto-pilot for us mortals. Slothful may be the most shameful human descriptive these days. 'Call me anything but don't call me lazy' is a profound by-line of our workaholic times. We'll go the extra mile---or one or two or three---to avoid even a hint of being a slacker. Check out the relatively new and booming market for energy products---bars, smoothies, fruit concoctions, chewing gum, gummies, soap, and even energy toothpaste. As if any of these could actually supply the fuel needed for life. You see, the step away is about more than physical rejuvenation. There are mental and spiritual components as well. Energy toothpaste probably won't soothe the soul.
And, of course, there is the Sabbath, the day of worship and rest instituted by God in creation. It is one of the more debated of the Ten Commandments---"Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy" (Exodus 20: 8-11, NIV). Let's not get tangled today in the various angles about the fourth commandment. Most Christians do not observe the Sabbath strictly. Christian worship has historically been on Sundays, the Lord's Day, celebrating Christ's resurrection. We had blue laws that limited retail and work activity on the Lord's Day. Today, however, worship services are held at just about every conceivable time and day, an adjustment to the 24/7 working world. But, the ideal of the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship provides a biblical mandate for this step away that is so needed. All of us need this Sabbath days rest as a metric of life management. The anonymous author of The Epistle to the Hebrew wrote---
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s
rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every
effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of
Hebrews 4: 9-11, NIV
Got some finish line commitments on your heart for 2020? How on earth can we reach them? By following Christ's example---the steps of humility, leadership, perspective, discernment, and refreshment.
More on Friday.
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