I was reminded by Fullers Dr. Jude Tiersma Watson last week that Ive often used a poor metaphor when thinking about rest and self-care in ministry.
I cant count how many times Ive heard (and probably said) that we have to refuel spiritually for ministry. But that metaphor likens us to automobiles, machines that are only valuable when they work, when they run well (and especially when they run fast). Scripture was, of course, written before the advent of the automobile. Psalm 1 uses the metaphor of trees to describe those who walk with the Lord:
They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.
Trees dont produce fruit year-round. They produce fruit in season. Trees that grow by a stream grow roots deep to tap into the water, roots that both support the upward growth and continue to feed the trees through the soil and water they access and feed from. And over time, they both produce fruit and rest fruitless.
We are not in fact like cars who need refueling so we can be useful, but like trees who produce fruit in season. Though our culture and our ministries (and our own drive) may expect us to produce constantly, fruit only comes in season. That means we also must have seasons where we dont produce, where we rest, where we experience the kind of healing that allows the possibility of new growth in the next season. Whether that means day to day (allowing ourselves to sleep at night), week to week (practicing Sabbath), or year to year (retreating, taking sabbatical breaks, using our vacation time), we are made to live in season.
Rest isnt just utilitarianwe dont do it just so we can be more productive when we start work again. Rest is more than that. Its an acknowledgement that were not God, and that we must live as we were madein season.
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