Autumn is here. Trees already put on the most spectacular part of their seasonal show, and crunchy brown leaves now outnumber their brilliant ochre, wine, goldenrod counterparts. If you live in the North, you may be seeing some snowflakes testing the area (we’ve had three straight days of flurries, but nothing is sticking. Yet.). The earth is preparing to rest under the weight of winter, letting the ground settle and sigh and sleep to prepare for spring.
And we run around like the proverbial chickens with our heads cut off, because this is that critical time of year to work, both at our jobs and in our ministry, running kids to school and activities and fun times, and preparing for the packed schedule of the holiday season.
Are you tired yet?
I am. I always try to “hang in there” until Thanksgiving, with two whole days off during the week to enjoy, reminding myself that everything I’m doing right now is worth doing, worth fighting for, worth missing sleep over and prioritizing. There’s always so much to do, so much good stuff to do; but in all this good stuff, how much of it is actually the best stuff?
Oswald Chambers’ ever-popular collection of talks, “My Utmost for His Highest,” challenged me on this the other day (on October 19, if you want to check it out for yourself):
“The great enemy to the Lord Jesus Christ in the present day is the conception of practical work that has not come from the New Testament, but from the systems of the world in which endless energy and activities are insisted upon, but no private life with God. The emphasis is put on the wrong things…The central thing about the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship to Himself, not public usefulness to men.”
This isn’t really new, right? We know that in our work and in our ministry, the activity is secondary to relationship, whether we’re throwing a fall festival with our youth group or working on papers at school or planning a mission trip. It can still be a challenge, but we know that’s true. Hopefully, we’re paying enough attention to slow down and be with the people God placed in our lives to care for. Even when we know it, this is a reminder that can bear repeating.
So, we take time to stop and have relationship. We try to balance those activities with the people they’re meant to serve. We try. It’s hard. We don’t always succeed, but we keep working on it. How is it that we still end up burned out by Thanksgiving? What else could we possibly fit in that would help us rest?
“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther
Even if it’s not three hours, what about simply making a decision to spend time soaking in God’s presence? I love how Chambers ends his talk, and it’s how I’ll end my thoughts too:
“…you are put here to soak before God. You have no idea of where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you either at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in overactive energies instead of getting into soak…you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line, you will remain true to Him whatever happens.”
Soak. Whatever happens to be on your to do list today, will you try to take some time to soak in God’s presence? What’s your favorite way to rest before God? What are the biggest obstacles to simply spending time with God?