Pushing the Pause Button

“Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting” – gas station plaque.

I couldn’t resist writing down this quote as it resonated so deeply with me. Who would have thought that a simple plaque found in a gas station/car wash could be so profound? Am I the only one who can relate to the sentiment? Am I the only one who finds it so hard to try and keep up with societal expectations? Was all this busyness and craziness really God’s original plan for us?

For all of my life I have striven to keep up with the demands of not only society but of my intense demands of myself and that inner parent in my head. I’ve always had high expectations of myself, and the incessant drive to push through, do more, accomplish more and be more to prove to the world that I am worthy and that I belong eventually overwhelmed me and brought me to a near nervous breakdown. It felt like there was, and is, always more pressure to be thinner, smarter, make more money, take on more volunteer commitments, sign up for professional development activities, etc. It’s no longer possible for me to keep all of the proverbial balls in the air.

When the Lord is trying to get my attention, He will start out quietly. But if I don’t respond to His message, God will continue to get louder and louder. Unfortunately for our family’s finances, He tends to get my attention via car accidents. Case in point: He certainly made His message to me to slow down loud and clear one morning when I T-boned a car as I was coming out of my son’s preschool parking lot onto the main road. As usual, I was I in a rush that morning to drop my son off at school, get my exercise in by quickly walking the trail right by my son’s school and then getting right home to finish my work before it was time to pick him up. For some reason, I assumed this car that was going straight on the main drag was going to turn right into the parking lot that I was turning left out of. I therefore proceeded to pull out of the parking lot and straight into the passenger side of an innocent woman’s car. Fortunately no one was in the passenger seat at the time, and I was driving slow enough that no one was hurt and the damage wasn’t too significant.

The unfortunate woman driving the other car happened to be a yoga instructor. Though understandably a bit shocked by the crash, she was calm and collected. However, she did make a comment that my energy was way off, and she recommended that I try doing yoga. I didn’t take her advice at the time, but the whole incident made it obvious to me that I was in too much of a hurry, too stressed with too much on my plate, and that I needed to slow down literally and figuratively.

Though this accident happened a while back, I haven’t made as much progress as I’d like toward my goal of slowing down. In fact, oftentimes it isn’t until I hit the wall of exhaustion and someone else tells me to get some rest that I allow myself to “indulge” in some much needed relaxation. What is it that I frequently feel it’s only ok to grab some down time when a caring friend grants me “permission”? After all, the Lord generously offers His rest and invites us to share in it. Furthermore, rest is a Biblical principle. How can we be effective if we’re physically and emotionally weary, burned out, and in my case, moody, grumpy and irritable?

Jesus recognized that God’s people need rest even from doing the Lord’s work. He had sent His disciples out to preach, drive out demons and heal the sick. When the disciples returned, they informed Jesus about all they had taught the people and all they had accomplished. As they reported to Jesus, “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat” (New International Version: Mark 6:31), so Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31b).

Stealing away for a little break, especially during chaotic times, is essential to our well-being. When I won’t allow myself a hiatus, it’s an indication that I’m buying in to several lies: 1) That only I have the ability to accomplish all that needs to be done in the correct way, 2) That God can’t be trusted to help me and/or to bless my efforts, and 3) That pleasing others and living up to their expectations is more important than taking care of myself so that I can do what’s pleasing to God.

I’ve even come to the realization that my refusal to rest is a form of idolatry, for when I continue to push myself in order to please specific people, my students, society in general and even my church, I am putting the world above the Lord. Unless pleasing God is the motivation behind all of my efforts, they are in vain anyway.

Solomon understood this principle. He wisely observed that our efforts are without lasting benefit or reward without God’s blessing upon them:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat –
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
(Psalm 127:1-2)

Beloved warrior, in the Lord’s economy it’s in our surrender that we achieve victory. In resting, we demonstrate our trust in God for His provision. After we’ve done our part, we leave the results of our efforts to Him to bless. In this way, we honor the Lord and His command to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a).

Enjoy the song “Be Still and Know” by Stephen Curtis Chapman.

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