Rest. It is an elusive word for so many of us, slipping through our fingers like grains of sand. It is not heralded as an excellent quality in those we admire. We don’t say, ‘Wow, he was great at resting.’ And yet, it is one of the ten commandments, to keep a whole day, one in the seven, to rest. Completely.
A number of things have brought me to a place of slowing down over the past few months. One of them is living in Accra, where I feel I am just unable to get as many things done in a day. I am often waiting for people to show up, stuck in traffic, or taking time to be relational. As I slowly move into the stream of life here in Accra, I am learning about the flow of the culture. Through many times of frustration as I have tried to swim upstream against the current of life, I am beginning to understand. It is slowly sinking in. It is more about relationships, and less about rushing. Here in Ghana relationships are valued as high high high on the priority list: higher than time frames, higher than schedules and plans, higher than productivity. It is not as important to people if you show up on time, the important thing is that you show up at all. Slower is ok here.
Another thing is being pregnant. I find I am exhausted a lot of the time! (the heat probably doesn’t help either). And so, over time, I have become accustomed to what feels like time slowing down, the hands of time allowing for less, and days being less productive. I have found this immensely frustrating!! But as I stop fighting the flow of life, and sink into the swirl of life as it is at this present time, I am learning about rest.
I read this great quote by Tozer a few months back, and it resonates with me afresh. We all have an inbuilt desire for doing, rather than being, but this encouraged me to pursue the ‘being’:
“We should all be willing to work for the Lord, but it is a matter of grace of God’s part. I am of the opinion that we should not be concerned about working for God until we have learned the meaning and the delight of worshipping Him. A worshipper can work with eternal quality in his work. But a worker who does not worship is only piling up wood, hay and stubble for the time when God sets the world on fire. I fear that there are many professing Christians who do not want to hear such statements about their “busy schedule”, but it is the truth. God is trying to call us back to that for which he has created us – to worship Him and to enjoy Him forever! It is then, out of our deep worship, that we do His work….” – A.W. Tozer
Challenging and direct!! If my business and productivity is without God at the centre of all I do, with worshipping Him as my biggest priority, I am in essence, wasting my life. And this leads me to the question: Would it be ok with me if my day is less successful in my own eyes, and to consider a day as productive if I have just spent it in the presence of God? Because relationships take time. Just as in Ghana, so it is with God: his priority for relationships is high high high, and he is not in a rush. And this is where rest comes in as essential. It is sometimes very hard to ‘fit’ God into our busy schedule, partly because being so jam packed doesn’t leave space, but also because we begin to see our business as more important than time spent with Him. When we purposefully take time out to rest from being the important person we have formed ourselves into we find… rest. And in rest we find God has been waiting the whole time. ‘Let me lead you beside the still waters, let me restore your soul.’ (Psalm 23).
In these times of rest we can begin to see ourselves for who we really are in Him. When all the layers of life are stripped away we come back to the core. But we might be afraid to ask; who would I be if the deadlines cease, and if the business stills? Who am I? Who am I if this speed train slows, if the whirring scenery stops? Who am I without the skinny latte to go, without the lunch on the run, without the demands of my children or the worries that I carry? Who am I when I am alone… without the weights of the world? Who am I, when it is just me before my God?
In a world that is screaming at us to be something more than we are; to go large, to live caffeinated, choose the fast lane, multitask and maximise… our father God is calling us to be who we are… in the stillness. I am speaking to myself as I write this, because although I know it, and although life is forcing me slower, I am still very much learning to rest, be still and put first the presence of God. Today I was thankful for being reminded.