For the past week, I have lived mostly between the sofa or bed with an invisible ‘out of order’ sign slapped on my forehead.
I’m usually the one ploughing headfirst into everything, 100 miles an hour, doing, racing, chasing, with an only-fools-slow-down sort of attitude.
But sometimes your body forces you to slow down, to seek out an easier, calmer rhythm. Long term, there’s been nothing wrong with me that rest (and antibiotics) wouldn’t cure, but in my mind everything crashed to a halt and I felt like a wilting, air-leaking balloon at the end of a party.
Last night, at home, I was prayed for and the lovely (but unusual) words were,
May she find new weakness so that she can find true strength in you.
Such a powerful thought.
I was not made to be strong all the time.
I was not made to live life at full throttle constantly.
I was not made to be completely self-reliant, to lean on my own strength.
And guess what? It’s ok to be weak. It’s ok to be vulnerable.
I realise this isn’t rocket science for many people. But for me, I was born into a long line of storm troopers on both sides. My great grandfather spent years walking across Europe to escape the Russian Pogroms. My grandmother (on the other side) was widowed at 42 (with 2 young children) and spent her life working two jobs to look after her girls. In our family, we don’t give in and we certainly don’t give up.
Being forced to slow down this week has shown me that at times, my brain has been like a monkey on a zip wire, constantly leaping from one thing to another. How many times have I watched a film while simultaneously looking at iPad and then at my phone? How many times have I met a new person and because my head is so full of busy’ness and distractions, by the end of the conversation I’ve forgotten their name? Even when I’m supposedly relaxing, I’m thinking ahead, planning tomorrow, talking about a thing which might happen next week, next month, next year.
And if I’m not, I’m chased round the room by a little dragon called Guilt who tries to convince me that resting is pure unadulterated, wanton laziness.
It’s ok to not always be on the go.
It’s ok to not be perfect.
It’s ok to not reply to emails or texts immediately (my phone glued to my side as though it was a life-saving oxygen tank).
It is ok to just sit and stare into nothing. It is ok to read quietly (with the phone switched off and in another room). It is ok to be in the moment and not be thinking about later, tomorrow, next week.
Psychologists call it ‘mindfulness’ (I’ve been reading all about it).
Jesus called it rest. Not just lying-on-a-bed-sleeping but real rest.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
As I read those words slowly, mindfully, nudging my brain to just absorb the moment, I’m reminded that Jesus came for the tired, the sad, the hurting, the broken. And He had some of his best conversations over dinner or while sitting on a hill talking to people as friends and journeyers.
He also rested. He took time off to hang out with his father, to recuperate his physical and spiritual strength.
He modelled ‘mindfulness’. He lived it, he preached it.
On some level, I’ve always thought that I didn’t have time to slow down, that slowing down was a feckless waste of time. But this week has proved that when I do, when I take a real rest, when I live right here, in this moment, right now, it’s possible to live ‘freely and lightly’.
To hang out with God, in the moment, no expectations, no requests, to just be.
To slowly, mindfully, begin learning the unforced rhythms of grace.