Recapturing the Rhythm

Busyness is addictive, and – like many good things – the relentless pursuit of it can bring its own problems.

Our four-year-old grandson wriggled in his chair. 

“RJ, do you have ants in your pants?” asked Poppa.

His deep brown eyes widened as he seriously considered the idea. “No . . . I don’t think so,” he said, squirming at the possibility.

It may be genetic. My parents and school teachers often asked me that same question when I was a kid. To this day I have trouble sitting still. Is it nature or nurture? I learned early that laziness was frowned upon and hard work garnered respect. But busyness is addictive, and – like many good things – the relentless pursuit of it can bring its own problems. 

Martha is literally my middle name. I’ve always been able to relate to this ancient sister, “distracted with much serving.” She came to Jesus with her complaint. Surely he would tell her sister to pitch in.

His answer perplexed her (and me). “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” 

One thing? The first time I read those words, I drummed my fingers and wondered, “What’s the one thing?” It took some quiet time and a fair amount of prayer, but I began to understand that a life centred on Jesus (the good portion) is the one thing that keeps a person balanced. There’s a time for work, and a time for rest.

The finished work of Christ 

In his book The Rest of God, author Mark Buchanan writes, “The Chinese join two characters to form a single pictograph for busyness: heart and killing. That is stunningly incisive. The heart is the place the busy life exacts its steepest toll.” 

Work, and the energy to do it, are gifts from God. I cannot, in good conscience, sit idly by and let my responsibilities pile up. On the other hand, I must not allow work to occupy the throne of my heart. Nothing is important unless it’s done in the awareness of and love for my Heavenly Father. He has set the rhythms of my life in motion. In creation the Lord himself stepped back at the end of each day to regard his work. On the seventh day, he rested. Days and years continue to mark the time ordained for me.  Each evening provides a mini-Sabbath. Each week is punctuated by the Lord’s Day.

Our culture holds a typical Western view of the calendar – five days of work and then a two day weekend. But as Dan Doriani points out, “The Christian calendar is one-plus-six. We start each week with rest and worship. Reclining in the finished work of Christ is the starting point for each week. It’s an idea we need to recapture today.” 

True rest isn’t about collapsing into an exhausted heap. It’s refreshment found in time with the Lord and his people. This year our Sabbath rhythms have been rudely interrupted for a few months. Currently churches are scrambling to make worship services work around complicated government regulations. Hopefully we can soon come back together physically. Meanwhile, our hearts remain united in Christ. Those who cling to his word won’t be far apart. 

A plaque hangs in our dining room with words from Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” It reminds me that there’s a time to tame the ants, sit quietly and find rest – real rest – in my Redeemer. 

Whittier said it well – O Sabbath rest of Galilee, O calm of hills above, Where Jesus knelt to share with thee, The silence of eternity, Interpreted by love.

Sabbath rest? Yes, please!

  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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