“You know Dad, you do a lot of good work in the world, but you need to chill out a little.” So said my eight-year-old son as I clicked the “off” button on my cell phone. He and I were on our way home after a busy Sunday at church. But before we were ten minutes out of the parking lot I was already on the phone resolving issues from the day’s services and inquiring about the sick who would need a hospital visit later in the day.
My son, having risen early to attend with me the 8:00am service, and having witnessed my rodent-like scurrying for the last several days, decided I needed a little rest. I needed “to chill.” A few days later my doctor concurred. After days of lethargy, huffing and snorting, I relented and went to my physician’s office to get rid of a sinus infection I was nursing. I got a little more than I bargained for.
“I think you’ve got a little pneumonia in there,” the doctor said as she lifted the stethoscope from my chest. A little pneumonia? Is that like being a “little” pregnant? You have it or you don’t. Apparently I did. With the ruthlessness of a prosecutor trying a murder case, Dr. Sawbones began her cross-examination: Your blood pressure is up. Are you under some additional stress at work? Yes. Is your family life demanding? Yes. Have you had a busy summer? Yes. Are you watching your diet? No. Are you getting enough rest? Uh, no. Are you taking your vitamins? Not really. I collapsed under her questions like a circled wagon train. I had little defense and no ammunition.
After writing a prescription for antibiotics, nose spray, and half the first-aid aisle at the drug store she said, “The best thing you can do is rest. You know, chill out for a few days.” Maybe she and my son are in cahoots against me.
It seems that regardless of our profession or chosen lifestyle we all share one thing: We are too busy. Stay at home parents are inundated with soccer practices, recitals, changing diapers and the demands associated with keeping the home fires burning. Professionals are slaves to their calendars. Physicians, jumping through the HMO hoops, run patients through their offices like cattle. Business owners have nary a moment of rest for themselves. Even elementary-aged students feel pressured by time constraints placed upon them.
In the wisdom of Jesus, someone with a far more severe schedule than you or me, understood that there was a time to relax. In multiple accounts in the gospels we find him retreating from the pressure cooker around him. When the crowds became too demanding; when it was time to weigh out crucial decisions; when he knew the challenges presenting themselves would be too much; he would simply break away. He would escape to the desert or a mountainside to pray; to rest; to be with God; to find solitude. In Blayze’s use of the term, Jesus knew when it was time to chill out.
This was a man we Christians accept as the Messiah – the deliverer of the world. In his short life he had more demands placed upon him than any other. In spite of this, intentional rest from his work was the only way Jesus could maintain the energy necessary to sustain his vocation. Jesus embodied those well-worn words from the book of Ecclesiastes, words that are more than a classic tune by the Byrds: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
As there are times of diligence and action, there should be – there must be – deliberate times of rest in our lives. It is the only way to protect our bodies, our families, our spirituality, and our callings. I’m afraid I haven’t learned this lesson yet. That much is obvious. But I am trying. A few of you probably need to learn this lesson with me. So let us listen to our bodies and spirits. Let us listen to the wisdom of our children. Let us listen to our doctors. And most importantly, may we listen to Scripture and the voice of Christ who invites us to rest. Chill out. It’s the best prescription of all.