The Rhythms of Rest

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.”  — Mark 4:35-36a, NRSV

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Jesus routinely took time away for rest and renewal. In the passage above, Jesus had been teaching the crowds when he decided he needed a break. Jesus left the crowd behind and got in some boats with his disciples and headed to a quiet place. He fell asleep because he was exhausted. Unfortunately, a squall came up, and Jesus would have slept through it except the disciples woke him up in fear. Jesus went back to work and calmed the storm, scolded the disciples for their lack of faith, and then went back to sleep. I can’t say with certainty that he went back to sleep. The Scripture doesn’t reveal that fact; however, I’m pretty sure he did!

We all need regular intervals for rest and reflection. I believe we need rest and renewal every day, every week, every month, and every year.

  • I begin each day (after hopefully having slept for seven hours) with a minimum of 20-30 minutes of contemplative prayer.
  • I plan for one full day each week away from work although I sometimes take two half-days due to weddings, funerals, or other pastoral duties.
  • I shoot for three to four days off in a row each month, although I probably average doing that about every other month.
  • Each year we all need an annual vacation that takes us away from our work long enough for us to completely disengage. For me, that requires two weeks in a row although I admit most of the time I only take one week at a time. I need to practice what I preach!

Even if we get this pattern down, many of us merely fill that time designed for rest and renewal with a “to-do” list of activities. These activities drain us or at least distract us from a critical component of renewal—that is, reflection. For us to truly grow, we must be able to get some perspective on our lives. If we’re not careful, we’ll crowd out the time and space needed to adequately reflect on how we’re becoming the people God created us to be. (Notice in Mark 4 that Jesus’ time away for rest is sandwiched between two crowds.) Failing to reflect and gain perspective leads us to a mundane life at best, and a frenetic life at worst. We are not human doings—we are human beings!

Some of you excel at maintaining healthy rhythms. Your lives are characterized by steady and stable emotional resilience. Others are trapped in busy-ness that is robbing you of peace. If Jesus needed time away for rest and reflection, so do we. Let’s make caring for our wellbeing a priority. It’s a great time to establish healthy rhythms of rest and renewal as we move into the Summer. Take care of your Selves!

Rev. Dale Cohen
Senior Pastor of Canterbury United Methodist Church


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