Have you ever seen someone riding a bike at top speed, and then as they slam on the breaks they’re catapulted headfirst over the handlebars. It’s painful to watch, or to experience.
Or have you ever watched a 100m sprint? Have you noticed how the athletes don’t just come to an instant halt at the finish line. They coast, allowing the momentum to bring them to a halt. An instant halt would cause injury to the body.
Many of us are coming into a quieter period of rest over the summer. So how do we prevent going from the busyness of our normal lives to an instant halt, slamming on the brakes so hard that we fall over the handlebars.
How do we rest with God not have a rest from God?
There are some people who regularly fall ill at the beginning of their holiday. It’s a predictable pattern. Often, though not always, it’s because they’ve sprinted to the finish and then stopped immediately. Life has been going at such a pace and at the first sniff of rest the adrenaline stops pumping and the body gives up.
We don’t want this to be our experience as missional leaders. So how do we decelerate well, and how do we find a good pace of rest over the summer?
We know from Paul’s letters that our life as followers of Jesus is about running a race. We’re not meant to run aimlessly or stop running, so rest isn’t necessarily about switching off from all activity or from all discipline. And it certainly isn’t about switching off from our relationship with God. Athletes and sportsmen do basic drills to keep them fit to keep them sharp and in shape over the summer and this also acts as low level preparation for the next season. So as we rest we also want to be thinking about how we can ‘stay in shape’, ready for the next season.
With those questions and thoughts in mind here’s a few things we’ve done over the last few years to help us engage with the season of rest over the summer and abiding in Christ:
# Have fun! – whether that’s on our own, as a couple, as a family, with our neighbours, friends, team. What are the things that are fun for you?
# Keep some routines -routines are a good thing, even for those of us who likes spontaneity. Throwing out all routine and structure doesn’t necessarily bring us more freedom, or greater rest. We’ve found tweaking our normal disciplines is a healthy compromise. A body always needs a skeleton so it’s worth considering what our skeleton routines will be. Maybe you can adapt or change the time, location or regularity of an existing routine.
# Don’t suddenly go from a full diary to an empty diary. – Unless you’re on an intentional retreat don’t go from multiple connection points with people to sudden solitude. This is often an overswing and overreaction to a lot of interaction with a lot of people. Taking a little bit of time each day to connect with one or two people even if just over text or on Facebook, or meeting for coffee keeps relationships healthy and loosely connected in a season where people are spread in different places.
# Work shorter days – this may not be possible for everyone but if it is, then consider doing it! Stopping to rest is sometimes an act of faith. For many of us it would be easier to stay in control, keep up with the work and continue in our own strength. We’re at our father’s business – it’s His work and His kingdom and He wants us to be people who rest.
# Create space in the evenings – if you’re in leadership it’s likely that throughout the year your evenings are often full with meetings. In the summer most of those meetings should stop (and if they haven’t maybe this should be factored in for next year). How will you use that extra space? One thing Rich and I have done this year is to look at our evenings off and to decide how we’ll use our extra time. These are some examples of the things we’ve allocated for different evenings: have fun, read, pray, be together, be alone, catch up on jobs in the house.
# Change the type of books that you read – we read a variety of books throughout the year but over the summer the shift is away from church/work/leadership books to covenant identity books, biographies, and novels.
# Change your bible translation– we try to read the bible with fresh eyes by changing to a different translation over the summer
# And finally…. one thing we always do each summer is to carve out the space to reflect on the year that’s gone and the year that’s ahead. But we only do this once we’ve recovered. We need to be physically rested as well as emotionally & spiritually restored. Once we’ve rested, relaxed, and had fun, only then can we begin to do this process. We talk about our highlights and lowlights of the year gone by and where we’ve seen God at work. We talk about what could be ahead for us in the coming year, not trying to push for decisions but hearing God for what He is saying. We position ourselves before Him to listen and to hear. We write down what we think He’s saying, so that as we begin to make plans for the year ahead we can refer back to everything we’ve heard.
These are some of things that have helped us decelerate well and to be restored and ‘stay in shape’ over the summer. There will be other things that you have found helpful. This post is not meant to be a ‘how to’ for the summer but rather a personal testimony that hopefully is a help & encouragement to you.
You are a fruitful branch but He is the gardener. Over the summer let Him do His work.
Rich & Anna Robinson