Sunday, April 13, 2008

You can't spell stretched without the "rest"

Back in the 70s, a company came out with a toy called Stretch Armstrong. Stretch was a blonde action figure in swim trunks who had the uncanny ability to have his limbs stretched to inexorable limits. In the early 90s, there was a short-lived attempt to bring back the legacy of Stretch. During this brief period, I became the proud owner of a Stretch Armstrong action figure. The idea behind Stretch was that you could pull his limbs as far as you wanted, and they would not break. Stretch had no limit, no breaking point--he could be pulled to the extreme without falling apart.

I am not Stretch Armstrong. Especially in my spirit. I have limits. I need relief. I require rest.

I find myself recently pulled in many different directions, much like the same treatment I gave Stretch. I am thinking about junior high ministry--the youth staff, the small groups, the summer camp, my lesson this morning, what the plan is for our autumn, etc.--alongside applying for grad school, as well as a mission trip to Latvia, thinking about where we'll be living next year, tax season, marriage, bills, exercising, taking care of our cars, chores, etc. Like Mr. Armstrong, I can be pulled in many different directions all at once and survive. Unlike Stretch, I need a break.

I think this is one of the many reasons God created the Sabbath. In Scripture, we see the concept of rest coming up over and over again. It appears as festivals, as years of jubilee, and required weekly breaks. The central theme of these periods of rest are renewal and focusing attention on God. I am learning the incredible value of rest, of taking an afternoon or weekend and truly gathering my thoughts and contemplating what God is doing in and through me. With all that is going on, it feels counter-intuitive to simply stop. But sometimes it takes that moment to breathe, recover, and jump back in to ministry, work, marriage, and life.

Life is a cycle of stretching and resting. I'm glad God gave us Sabbaths!

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