These are my three best girls on the shores of Loch Rannoch in Perthshire. We were on holiday and they were resting. You would think that resting on a beach is pretty unproductive (although it is a lot of fun if you like that sort of thing) but we actually achieved a lot. We had been at the beach around half an hour when a camper van pulled up and an elderly couple and a dog got out and came onto the beach. I was nervous for two reasons, firstly my girls (well the younger two anyway) aren’t the quietest and also my youngest daughter was terrified of dogs. We moved along the beach and continued to enjoy resting but the dog kept coming over (probably encouraged by my oldest daughter throwing sticks
at, near, for it to catch). My youngest suddenly realized that she was missing out and started throwing a stick too. She was terrified of dogs, but a few minutes later we took this picture.
Who would have thought that doing nothing could have resulted in us dealing with something that was really important, she is no longer afraid of dogs.
One of my favourite parts of the Bible is Jesus and his meeting with the woman at the well (John 4). Jesus is exhausted so he sits down for a rest and as he is taking it easy a woman comes along who he asks for a drink of water. A conversation later she goes to get the rest of her village with the end result being that many of them believed in Jesus. All this came from Jesus having a rest.
It makes you think doesn’t it? We feel the need to be busy, but actually slowing down can make us more productive. Tony Horsfall says we need to ‘work from a place of rest’. It’s at least 10 years since I heard first heard him use that phrase and it has stuck with me ever since. If you ever need a leader for a quiet day or someone to help you think through slowing down, then Tony is your man. Find out more on his website.
A few months after beginning to home school our daughter, my wife and I were struggling. I am naturally a very busy person (who else writes a blog to relax?) and my wife was exhausted (you would be too if you had to live with me, but home schooling is exhausting too). Something had to give and so I reached an agreement with my church that I wouldn’t work more than 40 hours a week in order for the church. Tracey and I felt very loved and valued by our church as they allowed us to prioritize our family. I said that I would try and do my best to keep up with things but that in reality I probably wouldn’t be able to continue everything I was doing because of my shorter hours. The reality is that more than a year into this life changing approach to ministry that I feel more productive. Working from a place of rest I have been able to get more done in a shorter period of time.
One of the problems with working less hours is that there always feels like there is too much to fit into a short period of time. I am a people person and I enjoy chatting with anyone but I am also conscientious and want to do things well. I’ve noticed that when I feel busy, I tend to prioritize projects over people in order to get things done in time. Over these past few weeks I have tried reverse this by setting more time to walk around the community I am a part of rather than just being focused on my set routine. I have always been community focused but have mainly connected with people who I work with through activities or organized projects. During this period I have had some amazing conversations with people who have thanked me for my time. God has been at work through me being less busy.
In his book ‘The Me I want to be’, John Ortberg writes that trying too hard can be damaging in exercise, that straining and overdoing it can result in muscle strains or tears. The answer he says is to try softer. Yesterday morning I was stressed, I needed to prepare an activity for a local community fun day but I didn’t have time. At Orchard Baptist, it feels like we have every type of fun game you could imagine so taking a game wasn’t the problem, it was that I also wanted to have something that gives people an option to think about God. I was about to
leap out of bed get up when I stopped and told God I was stressed (like he didn’t know already!) and then I was still. Within a minute or two it came to me, giant Kerplunk and an optional prayer activity about where we find support in life (you can read about how it went here). I had tried hard to come up with something all week and had got nowhere apart from increased stress levels. Sometimes being still and trying softer is the answer.
So today, my prayer is that you would be inspired by Jesus to take time to sit and have a rest. That you would be inspired by him to prioritize people and that you would be inspired by my youngest daughter to learn to relax and have fun, even when what terrifies you is not far away.
One of my favourite film quotes of all time is when aunt may says to Peter Parker (he’s Spiderman but don’t tell anyone): ‘You do too much – college, a job, all this time with me… You’re not Superman, you know’. If even Spiderman can’t do everything then perhaps we need to accept that neither can we.