Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Last week, in Part 1 of, “The Off-Season: The Rhythm & Discipline of Resting Well” we explored the ways in which the rhythms of the natural world (farming) and those of physical well-being (running) point toward us toward a common theme: Rest is necessary. Yet, rest is full of irony because when done well actually requires a lot of work, motivation and discipline.
As I have spent time reflecting on rest and what the implications are for our spiritual life, God has challenged me to dig deeper into what heart, soul and mind rest looks like in action. These musings and wanderings of thoughts, found in giving the Holy Spirit silent spaces of my day (most often when out for a run), have resulted in a reminder that, because of Jesus, rest for the weary looks nothing like the rest the world offers.
I actually really love the busy (metaphorical) seasons of spring (planting) and fall (harvesting) that come and go and go in my faith journey. This is because they are packed full of purpose, productivity, and a front row seat to watching others grow, experiencing God and serving His people. There are seasons in my writing when I can’t sleep because I have so much to process and create. In these seasons I cling to Christ for strength, I lean into my husband for help, and I cannot survive a day without spending time taking in Truth from Scripture.
These seasons are full, intimate and chaotic all at the same time.
Yet, like the farmer and the runner, my race of faith in the world also enters into seasons of rest, rebuilding and reprieve; Weeks and months when projects are not looming, writing ideas wane, and ministry takes on a different rhythm. The pace slows down and I hear my Abba Father saying, it’s time to rest. Winter is here. Settle in.
But it is so hard to remain moving forward while resting. I want to stop all the rhythms, ignore all the prompts of the Spirit, and just sleep. If you didn’t know, I actually love sleep! I mean a lot. If I could spend days upon days sleeping in bed, I totally would. Sleep is my jam when I hit the off-season
In fact, come time early in our marriage, when I was a first-year teacher at a school across the oceans and far from anything that might help me balance my life and not work every waking moment, I realized I truly loved to work hard. But that there was a limit to my endurance. And it came with a cost-physically, relationally, and spiritually.
When the winter break came that year, I would told my husband that I had invented a new holiday tradition--bed day. The aim: stay in bed all day in order to prevent myself from working on anything and to actually, really rest. Like a self-created sentence to confinement.
I am disappointed to report, this tradition was never installed in our home. Why we never worked it into our lives before children baffles me. Post-children, the obvious reasons, that whole idea fell on its face. Yet, when I want to express my exhaustion in as few of words as possible, I simply answer my husband’s question of, “How are you doing today?” with, “Is tomorrow bed day?”
What I am learning is that rest doesn’t mean stop moving forward. It means a new rhythm but the same level of discipline and willpower. Resting means pulling back from performing. Instead, spending dawn-hours in stillness, asking for the Lord to speak to me while I have the time to sit. And investing my time well in those things that will prepare me for the upcoming season. Like planning for the next step of faith. And seeking the strength of the Lord as my sustenance in this season too.
Sometimes in the resting season, I am tempted to think I don’t need God as much as I do when running at full-speed. I let my emotions and mood determine my actions, rather than allowing the Spirit to lead me into vision, understanding, and plans of the season to come. Like those training days where only three miles are required, I also lack motivation in the resting season to get up early to spend time with God. When underneath the warm covers of my bed I convince myself I have other parts of my day where I could squeeze that in--I am not that busy that I need to get it in first thing!
And I miss out. And my rhythm gets lost. And my day starts in chaos instead of peace. And I am then tempted to depend on self-motivation and determination and human strength to get the train back on track. And it fails me every time.
However, even my failure is instructing my mind and soul. My inability to rest well has shown me that when I have a right view of rest, a view that is more like the farmer or the runner than the black bear in the cave, I let God be God of my rest. I value the rest season for the ways it is preparing me for the next season. And I don’t give myself permission to quit moving forward. Instead, I see the rest season as a season of grace in which my pace slows down, but my growth isn’t meant to. A season in which I have more time to draw near to God.
And isn’t that what our heart, soul and mind crave when we hit the end of a hard season--refueling through abiding in Jesus? Isn’t that really where our rest is found--in a person, a relationship, not things, traditions, habits, or other man-made concepts or rest.
Maybe you are like me and look up to heaven some days and desperately want to hear these words from Jesus for your situation, “Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while” (Matthew 6:31, WE). And then you want him to come and take you away so you are able to rest. Here is the irony of this passage: Jesus might answer our plea for rest in a way that shifts the paradigm.
In Matthew 6, the disciples and Jesus are rundown from the travel and ministry. It says, “Many people were coming and going. They could not even eat. So they went away in a boat to a lonely place by themselves. The people saw them going. Many people knew them. The people ran from all the towns and got there ahead of them” (verses 32-33).
How disappointed would you be in this situation? Jesus told you to go away and get some rest, and this mob of people shows up and interferes with your rest-plan, robbing you of your abiding time with Jesus.
But Jesus knew this would happen. He knew the crowd would follow them. He knew that part of the rest plan was for he crowd to show up. But he knew he was going to be showing up to. And when you read further, you see that the disciples were nourished by food that came from the crowd, but was multiplied by the miracle of Christ’s power to provide. The rest the disciples sought wasn’t found in the alone, quite place, it was found in proximity to Jesus and his miraculous provisions. (Read more details about this story and the implications for our life here, Go & See, Session 1.)
Is this messing with your understanding of rest for your soul?
Jesus demonstrates he is our source of rest. He is what we need to find replenishment and reprieve. He is constant and available at all times. Our circumstances do not need to determine our ability to rest, because he is our rest. Next to him, in close proximity to his teaching, the crowds who need him and the miracles he performs is where the disciples ended up finding their rest.
Have you been looking for rest to come about when the circumstances allow it? Have you been waiting on God to get you out of where you are to a quiet and alone place so that you can rest?
Me too. I crave this too. Just like the disciples did. But Jesus teaches them something different about the kind of rest of the those who live the Kingdom life. That rest isn’t necessarily found in a setting, but in the person and power of Jesus Christ.
That is why Jesus said all of these things to us in the New Testament:
Our rest, our fulfillment, our needs, our hope are found in Jesus in all the seasons. But perhaps we sense the need most when we are craving a change of season. Will you let him be your rest, even when circumstances seem to be preventing your from any semblance of pulling away from the circumstances around you?
And yet, there are times when life really does slow down. Season of circumstantial rest. In these rest seasons, I have more time to draw near to my people. This is the hard one for me. I think if I were to really be honest, I am addicted to working, hard projects and intense endeavors. I like tasks. I like accomplishments.
I struggle to put relationships in front of impending deadlines, exciting visions, and seemingly urgent loose ends in need of being tied up. I am learning, again slowly, that in my seasons of rest, God is giving me space and opportunity to spend more time investing in relationships. The introvert in me wants to pull away from people when I hit rest season, but nudge after nudge from the Holy Spirit has led me to begin to see that my rest season isn’t just for me. It is for my people to get to have me be present with them. And vice versa.
Is this perhaps the lesson Jesus was teaching his disciples on that miraculous day we now call, The Feeding of the 5,000?
How about you? Do you struggle to know how to bring strength, discipline, and rhythm into your seasons of rest? Do you find yourself frustrated that rest doesn’t always leave you feeling full of energy or, well, rested? Or confused because it doesn’t look like what you think it should?
Have you considered that perhaps this frustration is similar to what the disciples experienced in Matthew 6?
Perhaps like me, you have found that approaching rest like hibernation isn’t the answer to the needs of your body or your soul. Like the farmer and the runner who know that in order to be prepared for the season ahead, work, though of a different pace, must be done in the off-season.
The same can be said of our faith journey and the work we do in our homes and communities. In some seasons we are called to run hard and fast. But in other seasons we are called to rest. However, what the season of rest looks like may not be what you are expecting. It may take a lot more endurance, discipline, and inspiration than you have prepared yourself to realize. It may take realizing your rest is found in Jesus and meeting the needs of the crowd, rather than getting away to a quiet and alone place.
This has been true for me. I have had to really let God teach me a lot about how to rest well. How to set up rhythms in the resting that allow me to be disciplined in still moving forward in my relationship with him, my relationships with others, and the callings he is setting in front of me for when the season changes.
What season are you facing?
If it is rest you are entering into, I am praying you will find the strength and rhythms needed to abide and grow, allowing your mind, soul, and body to be prepared for the season He has set out for you to run next. And I pray that it this season doesn’t look anything like what you are expecting, that you eyes will fix on the great I AM, believing that he is your source of rest.
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: