“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.” (Matt 11:28-30)
Tired definitely describes me right now. I think I might be suffering from a little bit of “deceleration” sickness–I can’t seem to slow down even though I’m officially on vacation. I felt the urge to drive out somewhere yesterday because I needed to be around noise, people, movement, and that’s definitely not something I’m going to get out here alone on a small farm in rural Kentucky.
At the same time that I feel the need to move, to do something, though, I don’t feel rested enough. I’ve been officially done with the year for about five days now, and I’m still feeling worse for wear. It’s even showing in my Bible study; it’s begun to feel more like another rote task (like those problem sets that were due every couple weeks during the year) than a chance to refresh myself.
This morning I decided to approach my Bible study differently; not as something I need to do to become a better Christian, but because I’m looking for something to restore me after a long year. I’m not so burned out on religion as I am burned out, period, and spending time with God (and with myself) has helped me to gain control of my life again. Now that I have the time to enjoy it, I’ve realized what I missed in Bible study for the majority of the year: myself. It is refreshing to be able to focus more on myself, my walk with God, and my timetable than someone else’s schedule or where I need to be or what I need do or anything else on the endless list of tasks that I have during the semester.
My problem was that I had ceased to understand Bible study as something that I do for myself (not unlike running) and for God. It’s not unlike daily yoga to improve flexibility in addition to one’s sense of well-being. Bible study during the school year tends to become something like the spiritual equivalent of taking vitamins or doing problem sets; I do it because it’s good for me, but not because I necessarily enjoy it, or because some unidentified “someone” out there expects me to do it. It doesn’t refresh me, and, in fact, often tires me or irritates me when I have to “work it in” to an already busy schedule. And then the endeavor begins to lose its benefits, as I lose out on quality time spent with God.
The verse from Matthew really speaks to me today; how much more beautiful could an endeavor like learning to live “freely and lightly” with Jesus be? He’s offering His personal instruction, the best spiritual personal trainer to get you back into shape. Resting becomes the workout because, with rest, we take the time to heal ourselves and come out stronger for the true challenges. Learning the “unforced rhythms of grace” from Christ sounds awesome at this point. I’m looking forward to the uninterrupted one-on-one time with Christ; I need it to recover from a pretty crazy year.
I’m looking forward to a long, restful summer spent restoring myself and my relationship with God. It is nice to have this stretch of time in front of me, and perhaps I’ll be in a better place to change my habits once I return to campus in the fall.