I wonder if God realized something as He watched the Israelites journey through the wilderness.
Did He sense fatigue in their eyes?
Notice irritability in their conversations?
Remember His own need for a break after creating the world?
I’m not sure what happens between Leviticus chapters 22 and 23,
but the conversation takes a turn.
No more talk of sprinkling blood here and there.
Or laying animal organs on an altar to be consumed by holy fire.
I wasn’t sure I could handle one more morning of breakfast mixed with that kind of reading.
And maybe that’s what happened as the page turned in the Israelite story.
Maybe God knew His people could not take one more day of sacrificial rules.
They needed a break.
And in true God-fashion,
He spends the next few chapters talking about an entirely different subject.
Because in the midst of sacrificial living,
the Israelites also had to eat.
And according to the Bible,
if we want food,
we need to work.
So God decided to bring some clarity even to this part of their daily life.
He takes time to address the topic of when and where the people are allowed to work.
And when and where they aren’t.
When the Creator of time talks about how it should be used,
I think it matters to Him.
After all, He truly does hold time in His hands.
So here’s what He says to the dusty, tired tent dwellers:
Work for six days.
Rest for one.
Every single week.
And every seven years,
take a whole year off.
Don’t touch your fields.
Eat from what grows wild,
but don’t you dare pick up a farming tool.
God honored hard work.
But He also valued rest.
Why do we push ourselves so hard today –
as if there’s a destination we may not reach if we pause?
Take a breath.
It may look different to each of us,
but I think we know when we’re pushing the limit.
I’ve pushed it often.
But I’m learning something.
If I don’t value rest,
my health may force it.
With a cold or the flu,
I feel the brakes.
as if every part of my body is screaming,
“I need a break.”
Last week my body said,
And I spent several days in bed,
the thought of even lifting my arms was more than I could bear.
I’m better now.
But I can still feel the lingering symptoms of a sore throat and dull headache.
I even gargled with hot salt water this morning before heading upstairs.
My body is still whispering,
“Don’t push it, Tammy.”
And I don’t want to.
How can I pace myself without letting someone down?
As my fingers type that question, though,
my head already knows the answer.
Pace yourself or let everyone down.
So this morning,
Leviticus is all about “appointed times,” “Sabbath days,” “festivals,” and “years of Jubilee,”
and I think God is asking me a figurative question.
“Is a week at the beach really enough?”
And I know the answer is, “No.”
God may demand a life of sacrifice,
but He just as equally demands times of rest.
Quality down time.
On a regular basis.
Patterns of solitude.
I tasted this kind of living last spring when I spent the weekend at an Abbey.
No talking for nearly three days.
No cell phone.
Just me and God,
with a small group of mostly strangers
and a large group of Monks.
It took almost 24 hours for my mind to settle down.
Feel the rhythm of the rituals of God-focused breathing.
Get in step with silence.
Release my mind from its normal thought patterns.
Embrace the lyrics to one of my granddaughter’s favorite songs,
“Let it go!”
All of it.
But in true Lucy-fashion,
I managed to stroll the wrong direction after a walk one morning.
Circling the Abbey from a hiking trail after a walk on a prayer trail,
I reentered the Abbey at the end of the long brick wall you can see to the left in the picture below,
just beyond this sign that said,
“Monastic Area. Do not enter.”
I didn’t find anything strange about my stroll until a monk passed me on a bicycle……..
and then saw an open gate into a prayer garden that was clearly marked,
on the other side of the property where all visitors were supposed to be.
Suddenly, I knew I had crossed over into what suddenly felt like
“the Holy of Holies.”
Walking back (a little more quickly than I had arrived),
I noticed that even there,
in the place where monks “hang out,”
there were reminders.
Right in the middle of a world where it truly feels as if time stands still,
the monks walk by this daily.
Do monks struggle too?
Can we, as humans, create a fast-paced world out of anywhere?
There were even places where the sign was tucked into the hillside.
These men didn’t want to forget what I often do.
The only race we’re in is not a competition.
It’s only a destination.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
God wanted the Israelites to know this same thing.
The journey to the Promised Land wasn’t a race filled with continual moments at the altar.
There was time to rest.
And time to celebrate.
All along the way.
We’ll all walk into today with a choice to make.
Will we pace ourselves and be fully present with each person we encounter along the way?
Or will we push through,
checking off the things on our to-do list
while missing the reasons we have a list in the first place?
I believe the Israelites are cheering us all on this morning.
I believe our loved ones who have gone before us our too.
There’s a cloud of witnesses just on the other side of a thin veil separating this life from the next.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…
Eternity is peeking through.
And they know something we often struggle to grasp.
Clocks mean nothing there.
I think Jesus remembered this as He walked on the Earth.
His times in the Garden were a way of going back to the timeless center of all He was.
Jesus knew a week at the beach would never be enough.
Even He, the only Son of God, needed breaks from the crowds and the miracles.
Jesus pushed pause often.
Entered a garden where the only communication He had was with His Father.
I hope you’ll find time today to do just that.
Take a few deep breaths.
Have a little talk with God.
Because a week at the beach will never be enough to re-energize your soul.
The Lord will fight for you;
you need only to be still.