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May 10, 2014

Part II: Surviving the End of the School Year: Rhythms of Rest

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I don’t know about you, but this week, I was Tired. With a capital T. Yesterday, standing in line to pay for my lunch, I asked the checkout lady if a drink came with my meal, and after she answered “Yes,” I asked her the very same question again twenty seconds later. And I can honestly say I had no recall of asking her the very same question or her giving me a response just seconds before.

That’s what happens this time of year to all of us trying to survive the end of the school year: we lose our minds, lose our energy, and lose our stamina to even ATTEMPT to cross the finish line. I’m all for giving my girls perpetual “mental health days” from now until the end of the school so we can just stay in our pajamas, play Legos, and drink coffee (or watered down juice, depending on your age) until 3pm.

When I start feeling this way (usually twice a year during the month of December and the month of May), I have to remind myself to live within the Rhythms of Rest.

Here’s what I mean:

We are a people desperately in need of daily bread. Not once-a-week bread, or once-a-quarter bread, or once-in-a-while bread, but daily bread. And if I have learned one thing about myself in the past thirty-seven years, it’s that I can’t go one day without the bread that comes from the Bread of Life Himself.

Actually, let’s be honest, I can go one day. I can go a week. Or a month. Or a season. But while my body lives, my spirit starves and my flesh takes over. I become sickeningly selfish, angrily impatient, and degradingly demanding of Jason and the girls.

All it takes for me to get off of the rhythms of rest, devotional living, and daily surrender is one day. That’s it. That’s why the Living Word of God is deadly serious and literal when He says, “Give us each day our daily bread…” (Luke 11:3, emphasis mine) and you must “take up your cross daily and follow Me…” (Luke 9:23, emphasis mine).

None of us, not one of us, can go one day without feasting on the Bread of Christ, made available to us through meditation on His Word, yielding and depending on His Spirit, and wrestling and resting in prayer.

We turn inwardly to feast on ourselves and our flesh faster than the blink of an eye. How is that even possible for those who have walked with the Lord and lived in dependence on Him for so many years? Think of it this way: how long could an infant go without his mother’s milk? One day would be too long, even cruel, wouldn’t it?

As followers of Christ, while in many ways we are to grow and mature from drinking spiritual milk to spiritual meat, we are never to outgrow our spiritual posture of daily dependence. We are always to remain like infants, safe and secure, desperately dependent upon our Father’s Arms to strain and shield us from the attacks of the evil one and our own sinful hearts.

The sad thing is, during seasons of life when I most need the daily nourishment and rest the Word of God provides, it is often the first thing to go, the fastest thing I am willing to surrender. That action alone betrays my heart: when the rubber meets the road, I really don’t believe the Lord is my sole Provider. I believe I am. And the only one I really need to depend on for daily sustenance is…myself.

So when I feel the urge to stray, to chuck my rhythm of daily devotional living and check my email instead of opening my Bible and getting on my knees, I have to cry out: Oh Lord, teach me to stay within the rhythms of devotional living. Teach me to rest within the safe confines of time in Your Word and in prayer morning and night. For those boundaries You have established for us as Your people are the safest place to be even during (and especially during) the busiest seasons of life.

I read this week something that helped me tremendously:

“Crowds were thronging and pressing on Him; great multitudes came together to hear and to be healed of their infirmities; and He had no leisure so much as to eat. But He found time to pray. And this one who sought retirement with so much solitude was the Son of God, having no sin to confess, no shortcoming to deplore, no unbelief to subdue, no languor of love to overcome. Nor are we to imagine that His prayers were merely peaceful meditations, or rapturous acts of communion. They were strenuous and warlike, from that hour in the wilderness when angels came to minister to the prostrate Man of Sorrows, on to that awful “agony” in which His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood. His prayers were sacrifices, offered up with strong crying and tears.

Now, if that was part of the sacred discipline of the Incarnate Son that He should observe frequent seasons of retirement, how much more is it incumbent on us, broken as we are and disabled by manifold sin, to be diligent in the exercise of private prayer!…We must “shut the door,” enclosing and securing a sufficient portion of time for the fitting discharge of the engagement before us.

In the morning we should look forward to the duties of the day, anticipating those situations in which temptation may lurk, and preparing ourselves to embrace such opportunities of usefulness as may be presented to us. In the evening we ought to remark upon the providences which have befallen us, consider our attainment in holiness, and endeavor to profit by the lessons which God would have us learn. All this cannot be pressed into a few crowded moments. We must be at leisure when we enter the secret place.”
Come Boldly, David McIntryre in “The Hidden Life of Prayer”

What are your rhythms of physical and spiritual rest, prayer, and devotional living?

Do you need to make yourself take a nap once a week? Twice a week? Three times a week, in order to function as a normal human being who isn’t biting her children’s head off by six o’clock? Then do it. The never ending piles and plans of life can wait.

Do you need to begin the morning on your knees in desperate dependence on a cracked and well-worn Bible and end the day in grateful thanks or honest confession?

If you don’t have any devotional rhythms, make them. And if you do, stick to them, no matter the intensity of the season or what obstacles are hurled in your way. And hurled they will be. Depend upon it. The moment you commit to daily, dependent living, a child will get sick, a crisis will flare up at work, your inbox will overflow, but resist the temptation to let everything go and stick to it. That’s when the rhythm becomes a ceaseless flow instead of an inconsistent stop-start-knee-jerk reaction to life.

Think through your weekend. Think through your week. How will you rest? How will you live in daily dependence? I am praying for you to be strengthened with power in your spirit as you live dependently on the Holy Spirit, drawing much needed rest and nourishment from His daily bread.

And doing that, my friends, is not just how we survive the end of the school year, it is how we thrive during the end of the school year, come what may.