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#2 Advance and Retreat

When we were preparing to move overseas and as we worked through language school and our first years in West, Africa we worked seemingly tirelessly. Our days were full and there was always more to do than we had time or energy for. We were busy and proud of it! But that kind of constant overload takes its toll. It can’t be sustained forever. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth in six short days. Then, on the seventh He rested. Then He told Adam and Eve to do likewise. He called it Sabbath. He had set the example of how to get a lot done, then take a day to rest and replenish so that the next six days they would have the strength, health and fortitude to get a lot done again. He even made it one of the Ten Commandments. God is serious about rest! Let me ask you, “What kind of God would offer His creations a day of rest every week and command that they take it?” Answer: a good God.

God knew that it would be good for His creations to advance fully, then retreat fully, then repeat. Unfortunately, the human race has a bit of a problem obeying this command, for a variety of reasons. I mean, we have a lot of really important things to do. Surely God would be proud of our commitment to working hard and overlook our refusal of His gift of rest, right? Nope! History is full of illustrations of people and cultures refusing the gift of rest and paying the price. In our country, heart disease, ulcers, anxiety, depression, sickness and burn-out are as pandemic as any virus. These are often a direct result of a refusal to fully retreat and rest. You see, when we refuse to accept the gift of rest, often God insists, and His insistence is not always so comfortable.

Work to see your quarantine as a gift. You have been given the gift of slipping away from so many things that were draining your energy and creative output. Low-grade exhaustion is sometimes hard to detect until you have fully retreated. It’s like being in a place that is full of people talking, noises, music, beeping and buzzing. We acclimate to the noise and don’t even realize how loud it is until we get into our car and close the door. Suddenly it’s quiet. You take a moment and realize how loud the environment had been. You take a long deep breath. You let it out slowly. Wow! Life gets so loud and busy and we don’t even notice the change until we just stop.

It wasn’t until we returned to the USA, after a few years into our service overseas, that we realized how noisy life had become. When we had a chance to fully retreat we recognized the effects that the long experienced low-grade exhaustion had had on our hearts, minds and bodies. We were tired! And we were thankful for the rest. Now, we have learned the value of rest. We work to make rhythms of advance and retreat always part of our lives.

So, here is my tip for today. Build a rhythm into your days at home that includes a time each day to fully embrace the gift of rest. Do whatever you do when you are being still. Prayer, Bible reading, mediations of truths, worship music, journaling. Or, if you dare, just be quiet and still. Begin your day this way, and you will begin your days full rather than empty. You will move through your day with more clarity and energy to pour into your chosen activities. Begin full so you can pour out rather than trying to pour yourself into your day having already been emptied. Fully retreat so that you can fully advance! You may just find that developing this habit will be addicting. You may find it so effective in changing the mental and emotional pace of your days that you’ll want to carry it with you even when social distancing subsides and the rest of the world mindlessly returns to the busy, noisy way it was before. Be brave. Accept the gift. Retreat. Rest. You’ll be glad you did.

Until tomorrow, I hope you see what God has placed in your life to bless your soul.


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