This week my wife solicited the aid of a dear friend. Their message to me? Pace yourself.
I hate… hate this message. I get it, I do. I’d tell all of you the same thing.
Alas, this is one of those times this well-meaning pastor is being a hypocrite. Worse than that… I know it. If any of you were stressed, overwhelmed, overworked, or overburdened, I’d tell you to take a moment. Take a breath. Find time to get away. And I’d be right. But if you told me those same things, I’d say, with full conviction in the truth of my own words, what time? I don’t have time. I have too much to do!
I tried saying all of that to my wife and my dear friend. And do you what that accursed, self-righteous, ill-intentioned “dear” friend dared to ask me? I’ll tell you! It was this utter, selfish nonsense:
“Are you trying to tell me you don’t have time to get away and pray?”
That sigh, if you can imagine it, was the kind of weary, exhaled breath that says, well, that’s deflating.
The worst part is I know better. The anger that suddenly (and thankfully briefly) stirred in my heart at that question was the same anger that would always erupt at my mother when she would say something similar. She’d quote scripture in the middle of an argument, or ask me what Jesus would think of my hard-fought position, or… you name it. She’d bring the Bible into everything, challenge my worldly thinking with scriptural truth or, even more maddening, call upon Jesus’s own words to counter mine.
It drove me nuts, I’ll tell ya. Especially as a teenager grasping for his own freedom and independence.
And here, more than twenty years later, was my wife and my dear friend digging up my mom’s old playbook. Still, the anger faded fast. They were right. Of course they were right.
More disheartening, they were speaking Spirit-filled wisdom into my life.
Luke 5:16 tells us “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” In Matthew 14:23, we see Jesus “sent the crowds away, then went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” It doesn’t stop there. Luke 6:12, “He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” Mark 1:35, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”
And the one that softens my heart the most… Matthew 14:22-36. It’s here that we find Jesus dispersing a crowd that had been listening to him teach. It’s here that Jesus sends his disciples away in a boat to cross a lake… a lake he would, a few hours later, walk upon as waves and winds frightened those same disciples. It’s a story we first heard as little children in Sunday School. The story where Jesus walks on water!
But before this divine miracle, before this amazing display of his power and authority over nature, before his incredible lesson to Peter, who sank into the water… Jesus did something crucial:
How often do we neglect this simple example of faith in action? How often do we forget to pace ourselves as Jesus did? How often do we rely on our own strength, schedules and will rather than spending time with God? How often do our prayers amount to “Dear Jesus, please help me with A, B and C. Oh, and D while you’re at it. Thanks! Gotta run! Bye!”
I need to pace myself. You need to pace yourself. And the first step to pacing ourselves, scripturally, is going to the Father in prayer. Alone. With meaning. And sometimes through a significant time commitment.
There’s literally nothing more pressing in my day than prayer.
Oh, it feels like there’s plenty that’s more important. After all, I can pray anytime! But I can only meet a deadline five minutes before a deadline!
Again, though, if we’re honest with God and ourselves, there’s literally nothing more pressing in my day than prayer.
Unless you’re in a forest and a rampaging bear is charging at you. Maybe don’t take that exact moment to dig into deep prayer. Run fast and pray fast. God won’t mind you praying on the run, I promise.
But I digress…
My challenge this week? Pace myself. And I invite you to join me in that challenge. It will NOT be easy. Or pleasant. Or comfortable. Even in quarantine my mind races and my to-do list mounts.
Stopping to pray can feel like quite the interruption.
But I cannot, for a second, start thinking of prayer as an interruption.
Prayer is a disruption! A perfectly good and righteous disruption of all the things that would distract me from my relationship with Jesus, my time with God, and my communion with His Spirit. It’s exactly the kind of disruption I need each day. It’s the kind of disruption you need too.
Let God disrupt your schedule. Let Him teach you how to pace yourself. Above all, rest in His wisdom, grace and love. He’ll provide true peace beyond understanding, even when it comes to providing me peace in the midst of a busy, hectic, seemingly all-consuming day.