How Do We Learn to Rest?

Several times over the past few years I have heard a comment like this from someone who knows me well. , “Shawn, I’ve noticed that you rest well when you are off work. How did you learn to do that?” That was quite a statement to me, a guy who comes from generations of work-a-holics. I can only say that because I am a recovering work-a-holic myself, and my dad has confirmed that as far back as he knows our family has seen work as primary.

Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor, business owner in his book How Will You Measure Your Life , says this with regards to making work our primary focus: “The danger for high-achieving people is that they’ll unconsciously allocate their resources to activities that yield the most immediate, tangible accomplishments. This is often in their careers, as this domain of their life provides the most concrete evidence that they are moving forward.” No wonder we do this! Who doesn’t want proof that we are moving forward?

Back to the question from my friend, how did I learn to rest? It was a great question. How does a man whose tendency is to work all the time (not just at a job but around the house, on projects, etc) make time to rest? Well, it started slow for me. I began by taking an hour here and an hour there to schedule something that I wanted to do. Yes, I scheduled it and still do. I eventually moved to 4-hour increments of a day once a week. Four hours of no work at all. At this point a couple of little kids came on the scene for Anna and me. You would think that rest went out the door at that point, but I (we) stayed with it. In fact, as our kids got older I began scheduling a day off for our family, an actual Sabbath day. It wasn’t always Sunday, it was the day of the weekend when we could most likely take a full 24 hours to rest. Practically, it stated in the evening of one day and ended the evening of the next.

I was enjoying each of these experiences of rest so much that I decided to take it a step further and plan a weekend once a year when Anna and I could get away and rest. That turned into two then three, and most years we now do a quarterly two nights away. Along with that my wife and I began to look six months in advance to when we could get our kids away for a week to rest and play together. Then after that, again as our kids have gotten older, we have looked for a week when Anna and I could get away for at least seven days together to rest without our kids.

So how did I learn to rest? I just did it. It is one of the best decisions I even made (and am still making). Rest is a gift from the Lord. One that we can all receive.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

What Could Rest Have to Do With Repentance?

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Is 31:15)

As we enter the final two weeks of Lent we will look at the concept of rest together. I’m not sure that we can truly rest without repentance. Before we look at rest, maybe we should first consider why Isaiah might’ve put have these two words of repentance and rest together.

What could rest have to do with repentance? I have no answers, but instead more questions. If we’re not experiencing rest today, how can we expect to receive it tomorrow without some sort of a change? Further, how could we experience rest if we don’t rethink our lives/ reevaluate and make a change? Isn’t that the definition of insanity we have heard our whole lives, doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result?

As I mentioned a few weeks ago (link) repentance (metanoia) in its most fundamental understanding is change (meta) of mind (nous). I’m going to lean on Richard Rohr for his understanding of this change. Rohr says, “Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. It did not need changing. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God! God is not someone to be afraid of but is the Ground of Being and on our side.” What Rohr seems to be addressing not only relates to repentance, but also to rest. Specifically, that last statement, “God is not someone to be afraid of but is the Ground of Being and on our side.” As long as we remain afraid of God, believing that He is either out to get us or has left us to figure out life on our own, we cannot rest. Augustine puts it this way,

Because you have made us for Yourself,

and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee.

Augustine, Confessions, 1.1.1.

As we look at the concept of rest for the remainder or Lent, perhaps a word to keep coming back to is the word Augustine references, restlessness. We will pick up there later this week.

Is Repentance Tied to Happiness?

Today is our last look during Lent at the word repentance before we turn to Isaiah’s final word rest in chapter 30:15 “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

In Thomas Keating’s book, Intimacy with God, he says, “repentance means to change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.”  I’m not  sure how to unpack that statement in a few paragraphs, but perhaps a quick look at the word happy can provide some insight on what Keating might be getting at. μακάριος is the Greek word for happy. It is most often translated at blessed and most famously used in Jesus’ remarkable Sermon on the Mount. Look at these words of Jesus through the lens of happiness:

How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

How happy are those who know what sorrow means for they will be given courage and comfort!

Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them!

Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for goodness, for they will be fully satisfied!

Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them!

Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God!

Happy are those who make peace, for they will be sons (and daughters) of God!

Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake! Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad—for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. They persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way. (Matt 5:1-10 Phillips)

If I am honest with myself my definition of happy is most often the opposite of these statements that Jesus makes about happiness. I don’t want to be humble, experience sorrow, be merciful, make peace. Instead I want to build my own kingdom, have security, cut corners, take offense, and be in a constant state of pleasure. In addition to that, I want to turn to another person, an object, or an ideal and settle for temporary “happiness” at the expense of true contentment.

So how might we lean into Keating’s invitation to change the direction we are looking for happiness?  Perhaps part of the answer is in Isaiah’s invitation into quietness, “In quietness and trust…” What if the answer is in the pause, in getting quiet long enough to be honest and ask ourselves what we are currently doing/looking to for happiness? I did this when I awoke this morning. What was revealed to me in the quiet wasn’t pretty. Pride, vanity, and my own selfish desires surfaced. As I confessed those passions once again to God I was able to remember that my heart is good, it matters to God and that He is the only true source of happiness? Thanks be to God!

Is Our World Repenting?

Throughout Lent we have been unpacking one statement of the prophet Isaiah:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” ((Is 30:15)

I’ve been wondering off and on the past few weeks, is our world repenting right now? Most of us have been conditioned to think of repentance as a bad word. Feel bad about yourself, say your sorry for the same mistakes over and over again! That is not repentance, not even close. Repentance is re-evaluation that leads to action. With that definition in mind, is this a season that is causing us to re-evaluate our lives? To re-evaluate what matters, how we spend our time, what we spend our moments doing and thinking about?

In the midst of a crisis we can actually go further down the road that Isaiah and Jesus warn against. Isaiah’s observation of the people he was speaking to, “but you would have none of it.”  Jesus seems to have similar language to Isaiah when asked a question by the Pharisees,

1Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”(Lk 13:1-5)

The temptation when crisis hits is not to repent, not to re-think our lives or re-evaluate, we don’t have time for it. We have to try to figure out how to do life amidst the latest crisis. But isn’t that really what we were trying to do before the crisis, trying to figure out, mostly on our own terms, how to do life given whatever was in front of us that day? What if Isaiah and Jesus are inviting us into something more?

Repentance seems to be an invitation to live life with a whole new outlook. It is an opportunity to value both God and people above all else. From my perspective, Jesus answered the question of repentance most clearly with these timeless words: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the first and great commandment. And there is a second like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

As our world seems to get more and more chaotic each day will we hear the words of Isaiah and Jesus? Neither sound condemning to me. They both are offering a different perspective, a new way, and alternative pathway that leads to life.

Believing that God is With Us Today

Each of us has a way of making life work that doesn’t involve Jesus. That is the case whether we are attempting to follow Jesus or want nothing to do with him. Because of the incredible freedom that God gives us to chose, we can do today with or without Jesus. As we continue to explore repentance through Lent, what if repentance is choosing to do the day with Jesus? With that perspective, repentance is being aware of our freedom, realizing our propensity to do life on our own terms and then choosing to walk through this day, this hour, this moment with Jesus.

“The next hour, the next moment, is a much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away.  Worry about the next minute is just as foolish as worry about tomorrow, or for a day in the next thousand years—in neither can we do anything.  In both God is doing everything.”  An Anthology of George MacDonald

I love that last line from MacDonald, “In both God is doing everything.” Do we believe that? Perhaps that is at the heart of repentance. It is so easy to think that we are on our own, that today is up to us. We get into a situation real time, and for most of us our knee jerk reaction is, “What am I going to do now?” or “What am I going to do about this?” Perhaps the repentance that Jesus invites his follower to over and over in the Gospels is a lifestyle of believing that God is with them, that they are not on their own. I believe Jesus’ message is the same for all who seek to follow Jesus.

As we walk through the uncertainty of today, may we see repentance as an invitation to believe that God is with us, that we are indeed not on our own.

Repentance: Change of Mind

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Is 30:15)

After a brief look at salvation the past week, we will now take the next two weeks of Lent to consider repentance together. What is repentance and why is it so important to Isaiah and Jesus?

Repentance to Isaiah (in the Hebrew language) meant to “turn around” or “turn away from the wrong road.” The people he was prophesying to had forgotten who God was and who they were. Isaiah was trying to get them to turn around and consider again what was true about God and themselves.

Repentance in Greek, metanoia, is quite literally made up of two words, meta: change and nous: mind. So metanoia means change of mind. That’s what Jesus was inviting people into from the very beginning. According to the Gospel writer Mark, the first words out of Jesus’ mouth were, “The time has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”(Mark 1:15) With this invitation to repent, Jesus is giving his listeners far more than a chance to say they are sorry for something. He is instead offering them a whole new way of thinking.

A little more on the second half of the Greek word metanoia:

noús (a masculine noun) – the God-given capacity of each person to think (reason); the mind; mental capacity to exercise reflective thinking. For the believer, (noús) is the organ of receiving God’s thoughts, through faith.

The last section of the Greek definition resonates with me, the idea of receiving God’s thoughts through faith. What if repentance is not so much about actively doing something, as it is allowing a change to happen in us. Maybe we can participate in this change (repent) by putting ourselves in a posture to receive God’s thoughts, both his thoughts about who He is as well as his thoughts about who we are. We have the opportunity to follow the path of Isaiah and Jesus and allow our mind (nous) to be changed.

Jesus and Salvation

As we continue through Lent and consider how repentance and rest are connected to salvation, it could be surprising to learn that Jesus does not talk about salvation very often. He only mentions the word salvation (σωτηρία) twice. He mentions it to a woman he encounters at a well, and to a man named Zacchaeus. We’ll look together at Jesus’ interaction with Zacheaus.

At first reading of Luke 19:1-9 it could seem like Zacchaeus experienced salvation because he gave his money to the poor. This is how it reads:

“But Zacchaeus himself stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I will give half my property to the poor. And if I have swindled anybody out of anything I will pay him back four times as much,”Jesus said to him, ‘Salvation has come to this house today…!'”

It’s nice and tidy, which is how Ilike things. The formula goes like this: Zaccheaus realizes he is a sinner, makes a decision to do something about it and Jesus offers him salvation. That makes sense in my linear mind. A deeper look at the story provides another consideration on salvation.

“When Jesus came to the place (where Zaccheaeus was in the tree), He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheaus, hurry and come down, for TODAY I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him (Jesus) gladly.”

Jesus makes this statement about today before Zaccheaus commits to any sort of change in his life. Jesus mentions TODAY a second time in the story here:

“And Jesus said to him, ‘TODAY salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.'”

According to Jesus, salvation came to Zaccheaus because of who he was, not what he did. Could it be that salvation came to him TODAY because Zaccheaus was already part of God’s family, he just didn’t know it. The day he welcomed Jesus into his home, his life, more importantly, once Zaccheaus realized who he was (a child of God) salvation became a reality for him.

As I return to Isaiah’s statement about salvation through this lens, maybe repentance and rest are catalysts to us realizing our salvation. What if it’s more of an awareness than a decision?

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Is 30:15)

With this perspective on salvation, we will look at repentance during the next two weeks of Lent to see what we can learn together.

“Salvation is not a divine transaction that takes place because you are morally perfect, but much more it is an organic unfolding, a becoming who you already are. It is an inborn sympathy with and capacity for the very one who created you.” – Richard Rohr