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Permission to Take a Break

By Rev. David Neuen

I feel awful as a parent on those late evenings when the children can’t sleep. I’ve found that there is no magic wand to settle their worries, no special hug than will lure them into dream land. On some nights unceasing restless takes over. Sure there are some strategies. On one particular recent night, I relaxed with my son in his bed, whispering prayers of rest in his ear. I hoped he would find comfort because I knew that this fidgety night would only lead to a groggy, irritable, fatigued morning.

I’m sure you have had those experiences where you lack rest and it affects your attitude and approach the next day. Jesus knew this well and so he would often encourage his disciples to get away, find a solitary place; to make space for rest.

But it is hard to take times of retreat. We do not evaluate life based on the quality of rest but by our amount of action and production. Alan Fadling in An Unhurried Leader says, “To often we’ve lived and led fueled by the idea that the one who hurries gets the most done for God.” He uses the illustration of the Chinese Finger trap to make his point.

Imagine you put a finger from one hand into the woven cylinder and you put a finger from the other hand in the other end. Then pull. The trap tightens on each of your fingers. The instinct to get of out the trap is to pull harder. But the harder you pull, the tighter the trap becomes.

When we get into anxious places in our lives, we try hard, we pull with more force, we move faster, to do more, and fill life with more hurry. But the only way to get out of the finger trap is to do the opposite of what seems right, to push your fingers toward each other. And when life is unsettled, what we need most is not more doing but more trusting, and praying, and resting.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

What has you hurried at the moment? What has you striving, and tugging, and trying to do more? What needs to change in order for you to slow down? Is it time for an honest conversation with God about how you can seek first His kingdom and to rest in His strength as you stand against the compulsion to always “do something”?

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