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There is a story of an explorer in Africa who ventured into uninhabitable parts of the continent accompanied by a selection of local guides and porters. As they embark on their journey, he pushes them to move along at a rapid pace, hoping they will cover as much terrain as possible. With the machetes carried by the guides, any obstacles they encounter are efficiently removed. Sources vary as to how long this continues for, but there becomes a point that the guides refuse to go on any further. No matter how much the explorer pushes, demands, cajoles or even bribes them, they refuse to move at all. Eventually he stops and asks them:

“Why have you stopped? Are you tired already?”

They respond, “No, it is not that we are tired, we have been moving so fast that we have left our souls behind. We are waiting for them to catch up with our bodies.”[1]

This story has taken on many different shapes and sizes and is easy for us to skim over without thinking over what it really means. Many of us live fast paced lives, filled with hurry and busyness without always knowing why; when someone asks us the question: “How are you?” almost always the response is “Busy.” Our days are filled with constant movement, always hurrying from one thing to the next, always feeling as if we are pulled in different directions. We are often tired and exhausted. Even now, at the beginning of a new year where many of us have taken time off across the summer break, we step back in to all the things that we were busy with, and it is as if we didn’t have any time off at all. We were hoping to be relaxed and refreshed but the treadmill of life is still powering on and we’re out of breath all over again.

Somehow, somewhere, our culture has built a philosophy that entangles our sense of worth and meaning together with how much we work and how busy we are. There is a status that is linked to being exhausted from working so much; we take pride in 60-hour work weeks, in being so busy that we aren’t getting enough sleep or working so hard that we forget to eat lunch. These unhealthy habits become badges of honour, a way for us to quietly say that we are better than others because we are working harder than them.

There are different theories about why this is the case, some of them connecting this hustle culture to what we would call a ‘Calvinist work ethic.’ While that doesn’t hold together theologically,[2] there is something to be said for how working well and doing our best for God has somehow been shifted, twisted and even perverted, so that we feel guilty if we sit down for a cup of tea without doing anything else at the same time. There is something to be said for that little voice in our heads that tells us that we are being lazy, that we aren’t good enough if our schedules are not filled to bursting.

This noise in our heads is amplified the moment we begin to slow down, so we find ourselves moving through our lives in overdrive, always hurrying, always rushing, living so far out in front that we cannot pay attention to things as they happen. We don’t have the time, energy or even the presence of mind to notice our emotions as they happen in response to our lives. We are physically tired, emotionally numb, and spiritually lethargic, our souls bruised and battered, disconnected from our bodies – but unlike the guides in our story, we are not still enough so that they may catch up.

How are we able to live well for God when we are moving so far in front of our lives that we are leaving our souls behind?

What good is it if we gain the whole world but are so busy that we lose our souls (Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36)?

Our God has created us to need stillness and rest. We are limited, finite creatures who cannot thrive when our lives are full or bursting, we need space so that we can reset and refocus. As followers of Christ, we are called to live lives that are set apart, contrary to the standards of society around us, part of this call to live counter-culturally is to live lives that are driven by a rhythm of rest. We live for the kingdom of God, a kingdom where status, wealth, recognition, power, fame and all the things we strive for in our hurried lives have no place. Something that I have been learning as I read about and sit with what it means to live counter-culturally, is that a part of growth in living for the kingdom of God involves a careful cultivation of stillness and rest. Living well in the kingdom of God requires me to weave and nurture a pattern of stillness into my days, it calls me to dance to a rhythm that combines rest with hard work, to fill my weeks and my life with the space needed to stay connected to my soul and focussed on living for the kingdom of God.

In the middle of all the things that are happening in our lives and in the world around us, through all the noise, clamour and pressures that we can be burdened by, we hear the voice that tells us to “Be Still and know that I am God.”[3] Our God is calling us to find stillness in our lives and stillness in our hearts, he calls us to cultivate a pattern of rest so that we can slow down and pay attention to what he is saying to us and how he is working in our hearts and lives, as well as in the hearts and lives of those around us.

This pattern of rest is something that looks different for all of us. It involves a careful setting aside time for worship and rest in a way that builds us up and deepens our relationship with God, finding a pattern that continues to reconnect us with God as our strength and refocus on living for his kingdom. Our saviour is calling us to him, calling us to let go of the burdens that lead us to hurry and hustle and to find peace and rest. “Come to me all who labour and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[4]

For more thoughts and encouragement on cultivating a pattern of rest, have a listen to some of the latest episodes on Tending the Vine, the Trellis Counselling Podcast, you can find these on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever it is that you like to listen to your podcasts. Some great books to encourage you further on this include Ed Welch’s book Created to Draw Near, and the book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. It is our prayer that you can find the time in your days where you slow down and find stillness, that you can grow in living out of this great rhythm of rest that our God has blessed us with.

 

Camille de Vos – Trellis Counselling.

 

[1] John Mark Comer p. 46 ; https://exploringyourmind.com/moment-your-soul-to-catch-up-beautiful-african-story/; http://www.nancyvericker.com/2019/07/30/waiting-for-your-soul-to-catch-up/

[2] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-myth-of-the-protestant-work-ethic/; https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/protestant-work-ethic

[3] Psalm 46:10

[4] Matthew 11:28-30 ESV