Anna Russell is a third-year M.Div. student at Beeson Divinity School. She serves as youth minister at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Birmingham, AL, and is the proud mom of Al Roker the cat.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:9-12)
I don’t know about you, but I often feel completely oversaturated with information, with activities, with notifications, with work, with news, with my schedule, with running from place to place. Part of me recognizes that this is the season I’m in, but at the same time, I don’t want to let the excuse of “the season” walk over me and cause permanent damage to my spiritual and emotional well being. What I mean is that, I don’t want to miss out on the depth and truth and pain and joy and presence of God and all that he is doing in this season, while using the responsibilities of this season as my excuse, and then never learn again how to walk slowly, be present, listen, and feel.
I don’t think I realized how much my lack of Sabbath rest, stillness, and quietness was really affecting me until I started to notice how unaffected I often was about other things. I’ve been moving from place to place, person to person, thing to thing, all important and good places, people, and things, but I’ve started to notice recently than in a lot of small, but important ways I am becoming apathetic, unaffected, unmoved. I can watch the news and hear of tragedies, look at graphic images of the horrific fates of some of our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria, and not even well up one tear. I can hear joyful news of an answered prayer or a new baby, throw up a quick praise and then keep going.
I have not been giving myself time to truly lament the tragedy and the evil around us, nor to celebrate, rejoice, and praise God for the blessings and glimpses of heaven around us either. I make take brief notice, but then I quickly move on to the next thing. As I’ve started to see this in myself I saw this as a wakeup call from the Lord. His grace for me, convicting me in the Spirit to get me to slow down, be quiet, think, and feel.
I never want to reach a place where I am unaffected by the evil and tragedy in the world. As painful as it can be, I want to be able to lean into the Lord and lament those things. Likewise, I never want to be unmoved by the great gifts of grace, life, and love that God gives us. I want to celebrate and rejoice in those things fully. I think the more we slow down and allow ourselves to feel deeply, not becoming hard hearted or moving too quickly even to notice, the more we will be reminded of who we are in Christ, what we were made for, and the eternal resurrection hope we look forward to.
The Lord knew our fleshly tendency to busy ourselves and grow into apathy when he commanded us to rest. This command is a means of grace from God, to help us remember how much we need him, to help us live life at his speed instead of the world’s speed, and to help us make more of all the highs, lows, work, and relationships we experience in between.
In his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul urges believers to abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good, to not be slothful in zeal but fervent in the Spirit, serving the Lord. When we become too busy to abhor evil or outdo each other in showing honor and hospitality, we miss the mark and we can know we are not living at the world’s speed, not God’s.
But by the grace of God he offers a life of more. Not running from place to place, but a life of presence, rest, and deep love. God has already filled us with his Spirit, our comforter and counselor. Christ has already died and risen for us, that we might find our rest in him. He told us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” By his grace, by the power of the Spirit, we can rest in him. Let us not take these gifts of God for granted and continue to live life at such a reckless pace, but slow down, listen, feel deeply, remember the Sabbath, and rest in the Lord. Amen.