I don’t know about you but I am so glad summer is here! I am a person who loves change. I thrive on change. If things don’t change I will find someway to mess with it till it does. So after the long and structured march of ridged schedules, calendars packed with kids’ activities, school, work, and meetings, we find ourselves thinking of vacations, beaches, weekend trips to the lake, lazy holidays with a charcoal fire (like we saw Jesus cooking over when he fed the disciples), and gatherings with neighbors and friends.
Some of us tend to feel guilty about this. Some of us feel like if we waste time or are not being efficient then we are somehow less spiritual. I wonder where this comes from? It certainly doesn’t come from the Bible. If you think about the way God made human beings, it is a study in inefficiency! We have to sleep a third of our life away! But God in the creation account told his creatures to take one day in seven to do nothing productive. So if we feel guilty for slowing down, changing gears, and not staying busy, it is not a guilt that comes from God, but perhaps is something that we have learned by listening to the liturgies of the culture that worships two things—speed and efficiency!
God gives us seasons, and the summer is a season where we should glory in not pushing so hard every day but enjoy a change of pace where we can slow down and just be. One of the reasons I suspect God made us like this is so that we would learn to glory in God’s grace and to trust him. God even told ancient Israel to let their fields lay fallow (don’t plant them) every so often. Why did he do that? So that his people would learn to trust him and realize that human flourishing is found in resting in God’s grace.
A year and a half ago, I preached a series of sermons called “Habits of Grace.” The whole point of those messages was that our essential character is formed by habits, that is, repeated practices that train both our hearts and our minds. We seek to form these habits not to get God to love us, but to express our delight in God. If truth really does set you free, then developing rhythms of life that reflect our human nature as we see it in the Bible will surely lead to human thriving, whereas to listen to the habits of the culture will lead to slavery, addiction, or bondage.
One of the habits I talked about was “Sabbath.” Put simply, “Sabbath” is this permission from God to be non-productive. It is the permission to party, to relax, to celebrate, and to bring the wedding feast of heaven down into time and space. God built this idea of rest and non-productivity into the fabric of the universe. He made humans to need rest for personal restoration. We need to step back from our labor and wonder at the goodness of God all around us and perhaps in what he is doing through us. Notice that, because of God’s design, rest is not something we do when we are finished with our work or when we no longer have any obligations; no, we rest because God made us not as robots but as human beings.
If you look at the life of Jesus (God with skin, speaking to us in flesh and blood), you notice that the first miracle was at a wedding feast. Jesus spent three days at a wedding. There was work to do, there was a world to save, disciples to be made, people to be healed; but there was also time to just be human and to honor and share in the joy of others. One of the reasons Jesus commands us to be like children is that all they do is play. They live to play and learn by playing. Yet most of us stop playing and lose our sense of wonder early in our teens. We grow old much too fast. Leisure is an invitation to adopt the state of mind that God has and to see the world with child-like wonder.
So don’t feel guilty this summer because there are fewer church activities. It is not that we take the summer off, it is just that we honor the fact that most of us need a change of pace. Truly, most real ministry that we are called to is not found by checking off that we “went to church three times this week.” Most ministry is found in blessing those people who are in your spheres of influence. In fact, my challenge to you this summer is to be intentional about being a blessing to your neighborhood—meet and greet new neighbors by having them over and cooking for them, or just take time to engage folks in authentic conversation. Use the “slower time” you have this summer to invest in discipling someone. If you are interested in doing this, just call Josh or me, and we can get you started. The point is, we never take a break from God. We do change our pace and rhythm but not the fact that “in season and out of season” we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Sometimes that is happening in a very structured way, and sometimes it is found in a less structured manner.
So, here’s to the beach; here’s to Thursday nights with new friends at “Sunset on the Square”; here’s to developing habits of hospitality with your neighbors. Here’s to taking your foot off the accelerator for a short season; here’s to being a “human being” not a “human becoming”; and here’s to Jesus. We can’t be more spiritual than Jesus and, while he was always purposeful in his dealings with others, he was equally purposeful in pulling away from his disciples to rest and recharge. This summer, I hope that you will follow his example and take time yourself to rest and recharge and, in doing so, experience God’s bountiful grace and provision. I hope you will see it is all grace!