Friendship and Days Off

It’s four in the morning and I haven’t been able to get to sleep yet. I’m finally starting to feel like I could get to sleep, but I’m picking up a friend’s sister at the train station at 6, which means even if I could get to sleep, I’d only get an hour and a half of sleep, which isn’t enough to actually help me at all. I do have all of my work for the week done, and this is a good thing. I don’t want to have to try grading papers without sleep again.

I also took a day off from God today. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? It wasn’t really an intentional day off. I had work, and then I had plans with a friend, and then I had to workout, and then I had more work, and suddenly I found myself at 11 pm thinking about God for the first time. That being said, God made a point to me tonight. When I finally did get around to spending some time with him, he pointed me to Psalm 23. Obviously, Pslam 23 is beautiful (if you haven’t read it lately you should try… I’m thinking about memorizing it in Hebrew). I have a copy of the New English Translation, which I love, but it’s one that I don’t see around very often. Psalm 23 opens with “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing”.

I spent a good amount of time with this verse tonight. Sometimes taking a day off from God can give you a little perspective. We all need a rest sometimes, and sometimes that means a rest from trying, from striving, from pushing to rest in God. Remember that whole Taoism thing that I’ve talked about a few times? Laozi wasn’t completely right. Sometimes we need to strive, to push, to fight for the things we want.

Sometimes, though, we need to rest from everything. We need to stop striving and just enjoy the day that God has made. Today I enjoyed the day that God gave me. I enjoyed working, I enjoyed that crappy movie that my friend and I went to see, and I enjoyed exercising. I’m almost enjoying the forced all-nighter that’s going on right now. This is the thing with God, even when you take time off, he doesn’t. He waits for you, wraps you up in warmth, and lets you enjoy your day alone. This is the kind of love that we all need, and it’s the kind of love that lets you say: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”

There is nothing in this life that I can’t survive without, except time with God. He is my shepherd, my rock, my redeemer, my lord. Something that a lot of people don’t know is that Psalm 23 was probably written during Absalom’s rebellion. This was a time in which David was old, beaten down, besieged, and had no reason to hope for the future. Psalm 23 was not written during a time in which David had great blessings, it was written during a time in which David had great trials. In the midst of this, David opens with the phrase, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.”

I want to be in the place where I can say that honestly and with a full heart, no matter what my circumstance or situation. Like David, I want to be able to say, at my lowest point, that I lack nothing, that my cup is overfilled, and that I will not fear. I’m not there yet, but he keeps working on it.

Recovery

There is always something else that needs to be done. This is particularly true in my job as I make my own schedule. You would think this would leave me with a lot of free time to relax, watch tv, read, etc. And I do take time to do all of these things. However, I have to make myself take that time. At any given moment in my life there is something that needs to be done. Papers to grade, announcements to post, discussion boards to reply to, blog posts to write, stories to write, something to clean, etc, etc, etc. Sometimes I’d swear that I’m as busy as I was in grad school. Given, a lot of these are activities that I choose to take on, but then, isn’t this true of most of the things we do in life? When there is always something to do, you have to make time to waste.

This is difficult for a lot of us. I know that, the way I was raised, wasting time was a bad thing. It was bad to relax, bad to have fun, bad to waste time. I grew up with the irrefutable knowledge that you always have to be doing something productive. So far today I’ve graded several papers, responded to about a hundred discussion board posts, had three meaningful conversations, met a new roommate to show him around, co-taught an Aikido-Jiujitsu class (back breaks… yay), written one blog post, and obviously I’m in the process of writing another. In between that I made dinner and found an hour to lie on the floor thinking about nothing. I’m sure a lot of you have busier schedules, but I wouldn’t call this an unproductive day.

That being said, we need time to recover. Whether this is recovery time from stressful ministry, from work, from simple stresses in life like moving or fighting with family members, or recovery from physical injuries (I think I mentioned the other day that I’ve managed to injure several joints in the past week), we all need downtime to rest, relax, heal, and spend time with God. See, God knows this. It’s probably why he required the Jews to take a sabbat. It’s definitely why he required biblical characters like Elijah, David, Paul, or even Christ to rest.

A good work ethic is a wonderful thing, but it can also be incredibly destructive. Physical injuries are probably the most potent reminder of the need to rest. While it’s important to be able to play (or fight) injured in the clinch, people who train while injured are stupid. They often wind up injuring themselves worse, and inevitably take longer to heal, and don’t heal as well. Trying to hike on a sprained ankle, or do kata on a broken leg is just plain dumb. That being said, I walked two miles in the rain yesterday… I think I should probably take my own advice.

The heart needs time to heal as well. Sometimes this manifests as a desire for singleness, sometimes as fear, sometimes as bitterness against the opposite sex (not the best manifestation possible), but all of these can simply be an injured heart needing time to heal and become whole. More than this, however, our heart’s need to rest in Christ. There are times when stress just won’t go away, when pain doesn’t stop, when it’s not what we are inflicting on ourselves, but what others are inflicting on us that is keeping our recovery at bay. At these times, it helps to have a resting place in Christ, a place of peace that doesn’t depend on circumstances. That’s the peace we’re promised.

Resting in Christ has nothing to do with circumstances and everything to do with the direction of our hearts, and that something that is worth relearning over and over… and over and over and over.