I am back at my desk. I returned to NYC on Thursday, July 30, after a month away. It was a good month. Lots of time with family. Lots of time with old friends I rarely see. Lots of time at the Prime Tyme Soul Café with some of the best fried chicken on planet Earth. Lots of time swimming. And, a fair amount of time worship/sermon/and program planning for the coming church year. Now I am sitting here wading through a mountain of paper work that accumulated over the past month (despite my prayers that an administrative genie would wave a magic wand and take care of it all before I returned home).
There’s a lot to be said for taking time off to refresh and restore. One Sunday while away, I visited in a Presbyterian church and heard the minister preach a very thoughtful and well-constructed sermon about the Christian virtue of vacationing. I could tell he longed for one. Part of me felt oddly self-righteous as I listened. I was doing everything he preached about, which, in fact, was precious little.
It was interesting, however, that another part of me kept wanting him to tell me that I should be doing something. Most of us are geared that way. We want someone to prescribe to us: Make this decision, take that turn in the road, give your time or money to this effort, add that worthy cause to your to-do list. And even on vacation, I was almost uncomfortable with his telling me that vacationing was a good idea. Something deep inside wanted him to say, “Enough of that, you sloth! Get out of your chair and make a difference in the world!” Instead, he kept reminding us that Jesus said to his disciples, “Let me take you away to a quiet place.”
Today as I sit at my desk, I keep fussing about the mountain of papers before me... but whistling while I work my way through them. You see, being back at work meets a need for me. Somehow it kind of validates my existence. You know what they say, “Busy hands are happy hands.” And yet, I keep reminding myself of that preacher’s message and its gospel-infused wisdom. All work and no play not merely make Jack a dull boy. Given enough time, it can make him a dead one. We really do need to restore and renew from time to time, in order to have sufficient energy to go back to our work with a spirit that whistles while we do it. We need to pull back in order to remain strong enough to push forward. The Hebrew idea of Shabbat was not merely a spiritual principle, it was also a practical one. Yes, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go ye into the world making disciples.” But first He said, “Let me take you away to a quiet place.”
I guess ultimately it’s all about balance, isn’t it? We work, then we rest in order to work some more. The pendulum has to keep swinging from one extreme to the other or the watch will stop. So, let me encourage you to do both. Devote yourself to those things that matter. Address them with energy and commitment. Throw yourself into the noble works of loving, healing, and helping people. But then, from time to time, pull back. Spend time in solitude and prayer. Replenish your spiritual supply. Have some fun. Swim. Eat some chicken. Then when you go back to the mountain of responsibilities before you, you’ll be able to whistle while you work.