February 26, 2020
The opening chapter of the Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus’ ministry work in the city of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. These events are taking place very early in Jesus’ ministry, and he is just beginning to draw a large following. The chapter includes accounts of Jesus teaching to masses, casting out demons, and healing sick folks. Jesus ministers to the crowds all day and late into the night. When he goes to Peter’s home to rest for the night, people follow him. He continues until well after sundown. The next morning, he got up very early in the morning and went out to a desolate place to pray. This is an interesting detail because he was probably tired and could’ve used the sleep, but he got up early to spend time away. There was definitely more work to be done that day that he could’ve gotten an early start on. Instead, he prayed, spending time with God and focusing on the mission he had come to accomplish. This is the first of many examples throughout the gospels of Jesus resting. He slept in a storm while the disciples were crossing the sea. He stepped away from crowds for breaks regularly. The gospels are full of examples of Jesus resting. This isn’t surprising because the Ten Commandments include a law regarding rest. Once a week, we are supposed to take a break to rest and spend time with God. This idea runs contrary to one of our cultural values. We are proud of how busy we are. There’s virtue in working hard, keeping your family committed to the point of excess, and never resting. When we think about stopping to rest, the first thing many of us do is compare ourselves to the folks around us. We look at people who are more successful or more put together and feel guilty for slowing down and resting. However, we aren’t made to work all the time. We have families that need our time and attention. We have kids that are watching and learning how to be adults from our habits. They will learn to enjoy their lives and their families or they will learn to be workaholics. We show our spouses how we love them based on the time and attention we gift them with. They experience love from us when we give them our time and energy. Our physical and emotional health is improved in rest. For years, I worked through stress and illness every day, rarely taking time off, because I thought it was virtuous and good. When I started taking time off to rest, both aspects of my health improved. Finally, our spiritual growth and health is bolstered by taking time to spend with God, reflect on our values and beliefs, and be still. It’s easy to ignore this, but it’s not a small element of our lives. Our spiritual health and growth are a much neglected, major aspect of our lives. All of this is especially important in this cold and flu season. However, these physical illnesses are just a sign of a larger pattern: inadequate rest.