Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
As many of you are aware, I’ve become increasingly interested in common verses that we have kind of just taken for granted. There are a lot of levels to Matthew 11:28-30, but the part I want to focus on is Jesus’ promise that he will give us rest. He calls all of those who are weary and over-burdened.
I started thinking about a book I had read during my Seminary days 25 years ago. The book was called Margin, by Richard Swenson and his thesis was that our overloaded lives were causing stress and damage in every area of our lives.
Swenson boldly puts our culture on trial in a way that reminds me of the apostle Paul’s warning, “Don’t be conformed to the culture of this world.” He argues that “progress” (meaning money, growth, success and education) sabotages margin and leads to stress. “Americans have a widespread perception that inextricably associates our overall well being with cognitive and material status.”
I may use more of Swenson’s book in future posts, but today I just want to dip my toe into the pool of rest. He refers to our current disease as “Hurry sickness” and I can think of no better descriptor. He advocates rest and quiet as one of the ways we combat this soul cancer. I’ve become a huge advocate of mindfulness and meditation over the past five years and have been working on a Christian guide for finding Shalom based on those concepts (inspired mostly by my clients needs).
Yesterday I was rushing around and not able to get everything done that I had wanted to before work. I was in the kitchen, in a rush, trying to prepare my lunch. I felt the tightness in my chest of urgency as I was trying to complete my task and get it done quickly so that I could eat and do a few more things before leaving. Quickly I recognized the stress and the lie that I was engulfed in. I really couldn’t make the task go any quicker and I knew this stress would eventually effect me, if not today than down the road- rushing is an addiction, it activates our fight/flight response and takes its toll in time.
Because I had been thinking about these issues this week, I knew what to try because I’d been telling my clients about it. I began to focus on my task and to try and be more present. How? I noticed the weight of the bowl in my hand, I focused on what my fingers felt like. I paid attention to how my feet felt as the took steps across the room. I watched as the water went into the bowl and thought about how enamored my son is when the water appears out of nowhere. I tried to reclaim my awe of little things- watching the water, observing sublte splashes and the sounds that accompanied them. The more I engaged my senses, the more present I was, the more present I was the less I could think about the future and feel the stress pull of hurriedness.
Don’t underestimate this strategy and don’t make it black or white. To whatever degree you engage your senses, you are staying present which will calm you down and slow you down.
The problem is that so often we have reduced Christianity to magic- if I say the right prayer or repeat the right biblical promise than God will miraculously give me rest. What if rest comes from living the way God intended? That would require us to examine our lives, reprioritize, and live differently. I think Jesus’ promise is complicated, with many layers, but I’d like to simply challenge you that Jesus provides a model for margin and for being present.