The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
–Psalm 23 (KJV)
Like many others, I love the Twenty-third Psalm. I read those words about “green pastures” and “still waters” and am reminded of the free spirited fun I had spending summers at my grandparents’ farm up a dirt road hollow in Potter County. Depending on the day, I’d go off on an adventure with our neighbor, or my cousins, or even my little brother, and we’d explore the pasture, the upper meadow, or the forest, staking out our claim to territory and finding great “undiscovered” camping sites.
But some of my best memories were the times I was alone, just me and God, out for a walk. Inevitably, I’d end up stopping and sitting alongside the banks of this one little stream that cut through the pasture behind the barn. I would just sit there and watch the water bubble along on its way down the stream… knowing that, eventually, that water would end up as part of the Gulf of Mexico via the Oswayo, Allegheny, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. It was peaceful. In the quietness of those moments, I found myself close to God and able to talk with Him and hear Him talk with me.
Summertime is here again, only now I’m more than 45 years older. And I don’t have a schedule of playing, followed by hiking and exploring. Not even sitting down by a stream. I’m adult now… I have a lot to do. I have expectations to meet for my job and my family. I don’t have the time to do that “kid” stuff… Or do I? The problem is just this: In losing the “play” time, most of us lose the quiet time… and lose the time to spend quietly with our God, as well.
The Bible is filled with times where God commands His people to rest and times that they were commanded to play!
The command to take time off and rest goes back to the Ten Commandments, requiring that one day out of every seven be spent doing no work… just resting. And if you violated that command even to go out and try to pick up extra food (the manna lying on the ground), God would see to it that that food went bad before you got to eat it. He knew that He made the human body needing rest. Even now, without proper rest and time off, our bodies still become more susceptible to disease and injury… as well as stress and burn-out.
The command to celebrate was extra-time off every so often where the people had a festival, special meals, special worship services, being together with extended family and friends that you wouldn’t get to see all the time. It renewed the mind and rejuvenated the spirit. You had something to look forward to once again, no matter how tough the year might have been.
This summer, let’s schedule in some time to rest and to play… the way God meant for us to do. Time off to relax and connect with God again and also time deliberately spent reconnecting with the people He’s put in our lives… our families… at home and at church.