Work, Rest, Start Again
Today’s reflection is from Pastor Lisa:
These days, I have a clock that comes with me almost everywhere I go. It has six sides, and is designed so that if you turn it to one of the sides it starts a timer for 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes. At the moment, the 20 and 30 minute sides are mostly aspirational for me. This is a timer that I use to remind myself when it is time to stop thinking and rest. I started using this timer at the advice of the cognitive rehab therapist, as I am trying to find rhythms that work within my current post-concussion limits.
The idea behind the practice is this. If you work all the way up to and past your limits until you cannot physically do any more, you will be depleted. It will take you time afterwards to recover and the process is not always simple. In contrast, if you stop before you have nothing left, you can stop, rest, and start again. It is counter intuitive, but stopping and resting can let you do more than gritting your teeth and pretending you do not have limits. In my current state of concussion recovery, that means I can do heavy cognitive work for somewhere between 5 and 13 minutes before I am exhausted. Therefore, I set the timer for 5 or 10 minutes and when it goes off, I need to have the discipline to stop, rest, and start again.
It may go without saying that I do not always appreciate this reminder of my limits. Often hearing the timer goes off elicits groans and a slew of adjectives not fit for church publication. I really hate being reminded of my limits. However, this does not mean that they are not there.
I have learned that if you can stop, rest and start again enough times, you can make things happen. I have learned that I can do chores, slowly. This reflection was written, slowly. I have learned that I can write a sermon, 5 minutes at a time. Although 5 minutes is short, when put together in a pattern, a practice of stopping, resting and starting again, it can be powerful.
I know that there are many in the church who have lived through a season of disability or that can speak with deep insight from their current reality. I know as well that “limits” are a reality we all live with, whether we acknowledge them or not. Our society as a whole has a hard time recognizing that humans cannot be regularly pushed beyond their capacity. Companies are built on models of squeezing every ounce of creativity and energy out of their employees. Economies are built on the assumption that someone would have the energy to do more than one low paying job in order to have a roof over their head. I think of the fatigue that folks have felt after the last year and how often it has felt that folks have been asked the impossible. And I think of the “do gooders” of the world and how in the pursuit of justice, it may seem that one must perpetually give all you have.
In the Bible, we find the concept of Sabbath, and the pattern of work, rest and starting again. There is a time to work, and then a time to stop: to remember who you are and whose you are, to connect with your Creator, who you were made to be, and your community, and then to start again. If all our culture is telling us to grit our teeth, ignore our pain, push forward until there is nothing left, there is a power in naming that we have limits. We can take time to stop, to notice in our frail bodies where we hold our exhaustion, our pain, and our tenderness. We can set aside the time to rest. We can prepare and be ready to start again. It can be remarkable to name that we are better servants of God when we come from a pattern of life-giving rest, rather than pushing through to exhaustion. It is more powerful to stop than pretend we have no limits.
And so as I continue with my “darn it, how could it be beeping already” clock, I am thinking of you all. May you have the space, wherever you are, to claim your own fragility. May you have a glimpse that your call comes not through exhaustion, but the power to stop, rest and start again. May we have the faith to name that our small pieces can add up, through God’s creative calculus, to much more than we imagined. May we find even in our limits, the good news of the limitless God.
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