Pedal to the metal!
This wasn't a slogan, but my lifestyle. I considered boredom obscene — a waste of time, energy, life, and opportunity. Rest was necessary, but to be limited. There were mountains to be climbed, life to be lived, and goals to be accomplished. I needed to get with it and get it done! Life was to be enjoyed to the full! So I urgently packed each day with as much as I could cram into it with as little rest as I could tolerate, with as little downtime as seemed necessary, and with as little boredom as I could escape. I was a stimulation junky. Multi-tasking wasn't an option; it was the air I must breathe.
Music playing? Yes!
Phone and texting handy? Of course!
Internet and email on and engaged? You bet!
TV blaring in the background? You know it!
Computer on with multiple windows open? Absolutely, along with a tablet handy for comparison!
All at the same time? Sure!
I couldn't tell if I suffered from an insatiable desire to experience life or from an irrational fear of sleep, rest, and boredom. Maybe it was just fear of missing some indispensable sliver of life. No matter the cause, source, or rationale, I was sick... soul sick... work sick... and most of all, missing God sick. Worst of all, I didn't realize I was God sick: I thought I was bored, so I climbed back on the incessant treadmill of busyness and ran faster.
Now when I look around, everyone lives with some similar sickness. Over-stimulated and over-caffeinated, with life under-contemplated and over-rushed, rest was all but forgotten and under-appreciated. Vacations weren't allowed to be restful, but campaigns to be won. So they ended up being taxing and crammed full of events that brought me back to work more exhausted than when I left.
I desperately needed to be bored back to life!
God made us wired to need at least a third of our life to be spent sleeping. He also wired our world for us to need one day of rest every seventh day. I even read in a recent issue of WIRED magazine that studies have now shown that a period of boredom is often one of the best pre-requisites for creativity and accomplishment.*1 The articles examples of boredom reminded me of the biblical prescription of sacred rest.
I am convicted of a truth I struggle to apply. I have spent too much of my life missing time with people I'm supposed to love, exhausting myself in marathon days, and rushing from one thing to the next, sometimes forgetting what day it is. So I went back over the Bible's testimony to my need for rest — or to use the WIRED idiom, my brain and body's need for boredom. This is what I heard the Lord saying to me. I bet it is a good reminder for you, too!
I need a time of rest because the Father demonstrated the importance of it. As one created in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), I have a need to rest. As one created for God's purposes (Ephesians 2:10), I need to take my lead from his example. My need for rest is written into the sacred order of the creation's rhythms and demonstrated by the creator himself.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:1-3).
I rest because the Creator made rest sacred. This rest is a holy blessing to restore me to good health and deepened family relationships. It is a holy and restorative grace to bring healing to all my life touches. My rest is not a legalistic retreat from helping those in need, but trusting that God works to bring them healing and rest while inviting me to trust he is working while I am resting. On those occasions when there is a person in need that God brings into my presence during my rest, I invite them into that rest and to share in its blessings, healing, and grace.
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working" (John 5:16-17).
On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up and stand in front of everyone." So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?" He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored ( Luke 6:6-10)
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Then he asked them, "If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?" And they had nothing to say (Luke 14:1-6).
I rest because the Almighty calls me to rest and he calls me to let those in my circle of influence rest. My rest is not an elitist privilege. Instead, rest is the environment of grace given by God to restore me. It is a holy rest to reconnect me to my family. This rest is to be shared with those whom I employ, work in my service, and are a part of my life's efforts. This rest is to extend even to my pets and my work animals. As for me and my house, we need to rest in the grace of the Almighty.
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
I rest because I need to know that as one who works to please the LORD, the work of my life is not dependent upon me, but upon the LORD. He works when I cannot. He works when I should not. He works while I rest and while I sleep. He works to make my life's work matter. So my rest in dependence upon the LORD's grace re-integrates me back into a holy awareness of my dependency upon him.
Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much — two omers for each person — and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, "This is what the Lord commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'"
... "Eat it today," Moses said, "because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any."
Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out." So the people rested on the seventh day (Exodus 16:21-30).
I rest because Jesus showed me the importance of rest. In Jesus' example and teaching on rest, he affirmed all the principles I learned from the Old Testament. In addition, he demonstrated that God's rest was intended to be a blessing for us, God's people. It was not intended as a legalistic command to be dissected and a source of argument or a sense of superiority. God made the Sabbath rest for us, and for those around us to receive his grace.
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 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." So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place (Mark 6:30-32).
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions." Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:23-28).
I rest because in my resting I anticipate the blessed rest I will enjoy with the Creator when Jesus returns. This rest will be a supreme blessing and a time of healing and mending and rejoicing. In this rest I will enjoy the presence of my Savior and the celebration of his people.
Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it "Today." This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 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 (Hebrews 4:6-10).
Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:1-4).
So now, I invite you to join me in a renewed commit to rest... and to let our children and grandchildren rest... and to enjoy the work of God that will accomplish more in our rest than we could in our striving. I invite us to experience God's restorative grace and renewing power of an unrushed fellowship with each other. I invite us, together, to give thanks for our blessings and experience the presence of our God as we enjoy his rest created for us to give us life! I invite us, in the language of WIRED Magazine, to be bored to life!
*1 Clive Thompson's article in WIRED Magazine, "The Power of Boredom: How dull activities can spark creative thinking."