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Mark, Episode 8: How Jesus Takes a Break

I’ve often struggled deciding when to work and when to rest. Work too much and you’re a workaholic. But too much downtime and you’re a lazy bum. So where’s the balance between the two? God created the Sabbath for a full day of rest, but does that mean the appropriate ratio is one day of rest to every six days of work? Is there no time for Netflix at the end of a long Monday?

Jesus recognized the need for both work and rest in his ministry.

Read Mark 6:30-56.

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Just resting my eyes for a second… Credit: michael (https://flic.kr/p/nrgY)

Many studies on productivity recommend frequent short breaks for more efficient, purposeful work. The Pomodoro Technique uses 25-minute work periods followed by 5-minute breaks. After a few work/rest cycles, there’s a half-hour break. The 52/17 Method by the Draugiem Group bases its ratio on the schedules of its most productive employees. Their sweet spot is 52 minutes of work to 17 minutes of rest.

After the disciples finished the mission assigned to them, Jesus told them to take a break. Even though there would be more work to do, he knew they would need to “refuel” before going on. This wasn’t a hindrance to the ministry or putting the ministry “on hold.” It meant the disciples would be refreshed and ready for the next leg of following Jesus.

Jesus meant to rest with his disciples, but he put that aside temporarily when he saw the great need of the crowd, people who were so lost and desperate that they had chased him on foot. I read another book last week that mentioned this story. Ministering Cross-Culturally by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter and Marvin K. Mayers pointed out how Jesus perfectly balance the priorities of task (going to rest) and people (meeting the crowd’s needs). He didn’t ignore the people to accomplish his task, but he didn’t give up his task either. After healing, teaching, and feeding everyone, he sent the disciples on in the boat and sent the crowd home. Then he went alone up the mountain for quality time with his Father.

“Few of us have the strength or will to follow this example,” wrote Lingenfelter and Mayers. “Jesus attended to the multitude around him, and then he ministered to himself.”

 

But Jesus didn’t stay away any longer than he needed. In the early morning, he could see the boat making slow progress and went to meet them. The wind stopped as soon as he stepped into the boat, recalling the time he calmed a storm after taking a nap. The disciples had been shocked that time too. Even after everything they had seen, they still didn’t know what to make of this man.

Jesus could have controlled the wind from the mountain rather than going down on the water, but then the disciples would not have witnessed his power and received further confirmation that he was something more than an ordinary human. Jesus came down from the mountain because he had more to teach them. His rest on the mountain prepared him to continue the work.

Reading this passage, I wonder if the key to work/rest balance is an awareness of needs–both that of others and our own. Jesus was acutely aware of his disciples’ need for rest, the crowd’s need for a “shepherd,” and his need to be alone in prayer. The amazing thing is he didn’t let any of these needs suffer. He may have put some on hold for a time to meet whatever need was most urgent, but he eventually addressed everything that he had to.

We can follow his example by being more intentional about weighing needs around and in us. Is the most important thing to meet work or social responsibilities or do we need to slow down for our own health and well-being? We can do as Jesus did to decide whether work or rest takes priority in the moment.

But we can also fill the roles of the disciples or crowd and know that Jesus will look after our needs (even if we don’t!). We may need to join him in the boat or chase after him along the shore, but Jesus will have compassion on us, satisfy our hunger, and walk across stormy seas to be with us.

…But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Mark 6:50b

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Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Other thoughts

 

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“Find Rest for Your Souls”

When you are unemployed and meeting new people, the hardest question to answer is: “So what do you do?” You know what they are expecting to hear: “I’m a teacher/doctor/lawyer/zookeeper.” But a stigma seems to exist against outright stating your unemployment. It’s as if your new acquaintance who knows nothing about you will hear instead: “I do nothing. I’m a lazy bum who can’t keep a job. I am utterly worthless for productivity and am, in fact, a leech upon society.” You are demoted to joining The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.

Being unemployed doesn’t mean I sit on the couch staring at the ceiling every day. I have used the “unexpected vacation” to finally pick up that mental list of things I had wanted to do but had not made time for. The tally continues to grow from invitations I would have declined, opportunities I would have passed up, friends I would have missed seeing, experiences I would have refused–if I still had a full-time job. My time “out of work” has not been wasted.

I have been working, though, even if it isn’t sustainable pay just yet. Every Tuesday morning, I babysit two-year-olds during the women’s Bible study at my church. Caring for small children is a learning experience more valuable for me than the monetary compensation. I’ve also been hired to do freelance work through a couple websites. These jobs are mostly suited for people wanting extra spending money, not anyone who plans on actually living off what they earn. Again, I’m gaining experience more than anything else.

Besides the side jobs, I’ve also decided to pursue my old goal of becoming a published author. I want to write a book and have it read. Up until high school or so, I was convinced that this was my life destiny. J. K. Rowling was my role model. But reality has a habit of destroying dreams. The chances are slim of ever making it on the bestsellers lists, the literary big leagues. Even if I could write eloquent, page-turning books, I had to admit that I lack the stamina and focus to be a full-time author. Talent alone won’t get you far. But with my new free time, I’m giving it a shot, anyway. I’m “living the dream.” NaNoWriMo started yesterday, and with a bit of grace and perseverance, I will have a first draft by the end of the month. It’ll be messy, but it’s a step forward.

“So what do you do?” For now, I’m a freelance writer and editor (even if it doesn’t pay). You could say I’m self-employed and work from home. And the surprising thing is … I like it. You see, it feels like a break. The pressure is off. I don’t have to commute anywhere or spend eight hours in an office. I can focus on other things besides earning a paycheck, things that I would argue are more important.

In professional terms, I am taking a sabbatical. More than anything, I have an insatiable thirst to simply be with God and rest from all the normal concerns of the world. I want to fall into his arms and lie there like a child on her father’s lap. I’ve never been in the habit of having daily time to pray and study the Bible, but the past weeks have helped me start. When I close my bedroom door and have quality time alone with God, I wish I could stay there and ignore the rest of the world. I don’t have to say a word, and neither does he. We just enjoy each other’s company.

Credit: www.pi-e-t.com

I feel a little guilty to admit this desire. I can imagine a jury of peers accusing me of idleness. “Get a real job like the rest of us!” they criticize. If they require scriptural support, Proverbs features plenty of harsh condemnations to “inspire” the slothful.

Yet even Jesus knew the importance of rest. He told his own disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). To the greater masses, he made the famous declaration: “Come to me, all who labor and are 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” (Matt. 11:28-29). God formerly disciplined the Israelites when they wouldn’t listen to him and rest. He told them, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isa. 30:15). Psalm 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” And, of course, there’s the well-known Psalm 23, which says of God, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”

This is all straightforward. God wants us to rest. If we don’t, he will make us. Work is good and necessary, but rest is a gift we’d be ridiculous to refuse. Without physical rest, our bodies crumble. It’s easy to see the effects. Our minds and spirits need rest as well, and God tells us to find it in him.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Publishers

 

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