Rest in a Performance-driven Culture
I’m the biggest hypocrite when it comes to rest. Last fall, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the topic...I read through Garden City by John Mark Comer (instant favorite), listened to podcasts, and watched documentaries about slowing down. I was left inspired, convicted, and just about every other emotion in between.
I quickly realized that I had been running at a million miles an hour, completely ignoring signs from my body to rest. I was on my iPhone 24/7, constantly running from place to place, and plagued by the feeling of needing to do more and be more.
Why? Because our performance-driven culture says the more you do, the more successful you will be, and the better life you will have. And a vast majority of people would agree; we even feel the compulsive need to tell people how busy we are, as if it is a competition where the busier person wins a badge of honor.
However, Jesus says the complete opposite: “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.”
Throughout the Scriptures, we see a trinitarian model for rest. God created the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day, He rested. Jesus withdrew to the wilderness and rested. And the Spirit of God is the one who provides rest.
God is the only being that doesn't need to rest, yet he does…to model it for us. Netflix is not rest. Social media is not rest. True rest comes from time spent alone in the presence of God.
I love the way John Mark Comer describes rest:
“That’s why Sabbath is an expression of faith. Faith that there is a Creator and he’s good. We are his creation. This is his world. We live under his roof, drink his water, eat his food, breathe his oxygen. So on the Sabbath, we don’t just take a day off from work; we take a day off from toil. We give him all our fear and anxiety and stress and worry. We let go. We stop ruling and subduing, and we just be. We “remember” our place in the universe. So that we never forget…there is a God, and I’m not him.”
…so I made a few changes.
I started getting into work early each day just to be with the Lord. Most of the time, I just sat there and listened, and most of the time, it was really hard. Solitude is one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding disciplines we can foster and develop.
I started an experiment called the “distraction-free iPhone,” where I deleted almost all the apps on my iPhone except messages, camera, and a handful of others. No more safari, no more mail, no more distractions. Studies show that nearly 80% of people ages 18-44 check their smartphone within minutes of waking up in the morning. We have become robots craving social connectedness and productivity, but iPhones have done the complete opposite; they have made us less connected and less productive.
Morgan and I started to Sabbath once a week, where we literally wouldn’t do anything that was not considered restful. We didn’t buy anything, we didn't do any errands, we didn't work. For some reason, this concept of structured rest time was so foreign to me, but it has become the best day of our week.
As a result, I felt more present, more connected, and less anxious. I was experiencing more of the in-between moments that pass by in our daily rhythms. I was experiencing God in a way that brought a deep sense of peace to my soul.
Then, slowly but surely, I began to fall out of rhythm, and 6 months later, I found myself back at the start.
Only this time, with ministry.
We started support raising at the end of January, and shot out of the gates, doing 6-7 meetings per week. In other words, almost every single day after work we were with families, sharing the vision we have for church planting in PNG.
This went on for about two months, and we ran ourselves dry.
Looking back, Morgan reminded me of our need to rest on a number of different occasions, but it didn’t click until the Lord made it painstakingly clear.
I was on a walking meeting with my CEO (because that’s what all the cool tech startups do), and I was telling him about our busy schedule, and how we were hustling so much, and how we had this great vision, and how we wanted to get as many people on board as possible!
He responded with a simple question, “What would happen if you did 3 meetings a week, and spent the other days in prayer and rest?”
Immediately, I felt like the Israelites of the Old Testament…we tend to read stories about how God delivered them time and time again, and almost laugh to ourselves when we read on the next page that they turned back to their former ways. Yet, in the same way, I had just come out of a season of learning so much about rest, and was so quick to fall back to my fleshly tendencies.
So we scaled back.
And the support came flooding in.
Two days later we got a $1000 anonymous donation, and within a week, our monthly support level nearly doubled!
I was completely humbled by the experience. For the first time, I wasn’t able to just work harder. I had to fully rely on God and allow more room for Him to work.
We were created for good, meaningful work, but we were also created for rest. There is an important balance between the two, and the only way to do either well is by abiding in the Father. He loves us too much to let us continue running on fumes by our own feeble strength. This truly is the Lord’s ministry, and He made it very clear that we would be back in PNG one day, so we are resting in Him to provide the means necessary.
In a performance-driven culture that says, “do more”, “be more,” and “work harder,” I pray we would be quick to recognize the lies of the enemy and lean into the only One who doesn’t need rest, yet modeled it for us simply because He loves us.