“OTIUM SANCTUM”: REST FOR YOUR SOUL
John 10:10b “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Life has a way of flying by you.
See if you can relate: It’s Monday morning, you’re rushing to get to work/school, mentally reviewing the tasks scheduled for that day, microwaving last night’s coffee and grabbing a couple of protein bars on your way out the door because you aren’t really sure what’s going to happen around lunchtime. In the car, you guiltily offer up a quick prayer consisting of “bless this day, may I be Spirit-led, etc.” but that’s about as far as you are able to go because traffic is thick and you’ve got to concentrate—at least you’ve got the Christian radio station on: that has to count for something!
Then the day brings its challenges: loops you hadn’t planned on jumping through, that unexpected phone call that requires you to drop everything you’re doing and deal with the “emergency” at hand, or your boss’s declaration that the project you are working on has been changed and you will now have to edit the million page document line by line until you have made all of the necessary changes, as well as keeping up with all of your scheduled daily work. Then in the middle of this process, that lady who seems to always have it together says to you: “You look tired today.” In your head you grumble: “Thank you for stating the obvious. I hope you don’t charge.” But feeling convicted and having some sense of dignity you say: “I’m not wearing as much makeup.” LIES. You’ve got enough makeup on to choke a hog, but for some reason, admitting you are tired is weak, and weak is something that you are most definitely not.
Work is finally over; you’ve got practices, games, night school—you name it. Regardless of what it is, there’s no time to make dinner, so you swing by a drive-thru and order more calories than your New Year’s resolution would permit, but you tell yourself “It’s OK. Just this one time!”, and mentally make a note to swing by the gym tomorrow, which is what you said yesterday, and the day before that, but you tend to have a selective memory and can’t seem to recall those days.
Well, the drive-thru was fast, but not fast enough. You’re late for class, and your professor actually took attendance today of all days. Class is finally over, it’s late, but you still have quite a bit of homework to do. On your way home, you remember there’s no milk at the house. You’re seriously debating whether or not you can live without milk for a few days, but remember there’s a church event tomorrow, and you were supposed to bring a dessert. So you pull in to your local grocery store for a “quick stop.” In the dessert aisle, you thank God for “Betty Crocker” and grab a fudge brownie mix. Your mind flashes to the last event when the pastor’s wife brought that delicious, home-made, Pinterest-inspired cobbler. Frustrated and envious you think: “It’s not like she has anything else to do!” A pang of conviction comes over you. She’s a sweet lady and has many a time come to your aid. You put the brownie box back and grab the carrot cake mix. Besides, you made brownies the last time and don’t want people to think that’s all you know how to make!
You get home, explain why you were late and why you didn’t answer your phone while you were out (it was on silent of course because you were in class), and robotically put the groceries away. Exhausted, you sit down for a cup of tea and open your laptop to get started on your homework. At some point, you look down and see a stain on your pants. Great! I guess I won’t be getting two uses out of these this week. Which reminds you— there’s a mountain of dirty laundry that would put Everest to shame that needs your attention, and unless you plan on going commando tomorrow, you need to take care of it. You pull yourself up the stairs, throw your laundry into the washer, not even bothering to sort it out, then slump down the stairs to your computer. You had hope to be in bed by 11p.m. tonight, but laundry doesn’t smell too good when it has been sitting damp for a while.
On your laptop you pull up your Facebook and hundreds of pictures bombard your screen: friends on vacation, friends at a party, friends getting married, friends having babies, friends losing weight, friends experiencing God in a mighty way, and all of those pictures remind you of what you don’t have: that dream house, a godly, loving husband, cute little kids, an interesting/thriving career, quality time with friends and family, and the most convicting—a passionate, loving relationship with God.
Your heart aches. You remember the verse from last Sunday: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” My life is TOO abundant you think. “No, your life is TOO busy”, says a still, small voice. Startled, you know who it is. God. Then you let it all out, trying to justify your business by pointing out that church activities and ministry are the issues. “I’m serving You!”, you whine, “Why is there no peace, no satisfaction in what I do?” “Why am I surrounded by people, yet still so lonely?” “Why don’t you speak to me like this all the time and just tell me what to do?!” And as the buzzer to the washer goes off, you get up and half-cry/half-scream: “WHY IS THERE NO REST?”
Does this ever look like your life? Have you ever felt like you were on the treadmill of life without a stopping point or a destination? I have—many times! And have often had to cry out for God to pull the plug on my never-ending routine. So, how do we, as people of God, get out of this rat race and live a life like God intended? It’s true that Christ came to bring us abundant life, but I am fully convinced that abundance does not mean busyness, chaotic schedules, or shallow relationships. When I think of abundance, I think of a Thanksgiving table: relationships seasoned by the challenges and joys of life that are deep and have meaning, food that is rich and wholesome that nourishes your body, plenty to go around—it leaves people satisfied, with some left over, and relaxation. Sure, there are dishes to do when it’s all said and done, but don’t those seem easier to wash than the normal, every-day ones?
In his book “Celebration of Discipline,” Richard Foster defines the kind of abundance God offers as “Otium Sanctum” or holy living. It’s the type of peace with God that allows one to experience the beauty, joy, and peace God brings throughout the daily happenings of life. It is the quiet sensitivity to God’s Word and God’s voice: the gentle leading to talk with that co-worker during your lunch break, to help that elderly lady with her groceries on the way out the door, or even to stop, reflect, and give thanks in the midst of crisis–to do what God has called us to do in that moment and enjoy it to its fullest. Doesn’t this kind of life sound abundant and fulfilling?
You might be thinking: “That’s great, but how do I come to a point in my life when I hear God prodding me to do things like that? My thoughts are so scattered, I’m lucky to get all of my groceries to the car, let alone someone else’s. Where is my peace? Where is my rest?”
Christ gives us the answer to this in Matt. 11:28 “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Come to me” is an action. Rest doesn’t come unless we put in the effort to draw near to Jesus Christ. I know what you are thinking because I am too: “One more thing to do.” Here’s the catch, if there were one thing to do in life that truly mattered, it would be this: “draw near to God.” Why is that one thing so important? Not only does it bring rest (Matt. 11:28), it also helps us resist temptation that could completely ruin us (James 4:7), and is for our overall good (Psalm 73: 28). Martin Luther said. “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first 3 hours in prayer.” He understood the importance of drawing near to God. We cannot make one single day without Him in our lives. The realization of this allows us to draw near to Him and cast all our cares on Him. The result? Rest. Elisabeth Elliot, one of my personal heroes of the faith, says:
“One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda that God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is ALWAYS time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”
May you all experience “Otium Sanctum” today.