Another thought on rest and slowing down:
The purpose of “slowing down” isn’t just having more time or feeling less frantic. Those are good things, but ultimately we want our lives to take shape in a way that opens us up to God. The goal of rest is renewal for God’s purposes, to be able to hear his voice and to be ready to obey his call. Put slightly differently, we only become what we were made to be when we’re rightly related to God. Hearing his voice and obeying his call doesn’t only please God; it is the path to our own flourishing too.
With this in mind, I’m going to make a rather obvious suggestion about slowing down: Read Scripture.
I hope you’ve come here with great hunger. Don’t try to satisfy it with junk food. Instead let us ingest Jesus through intense study, through reading the word closely, memorizing it, meditating on it, arguing about it, seeking to obey it and live by it. If we do that, we will find life.
These words, from Richard Hays’ Opening Convocation sermon to the students at Duke Divinity School, are a challenge to all of us. Are we hungry for the Word? Rest days (especially holidays) usually include some sort of feasting. As our lives become more restful, are we “eating the Word” on a daily basis?
If we want our lives to be truly shaped by Scripture, we may need to start to read the Bible in a different way. Reading whole chunks of the Bible, whole books or letters, will have a much more lasting impact on us than relying on devotional thoughts based on one or two verses. Those devotionals might certainly have something good to say to us, but when we take the time to immerse ourselves in Scripture something special happens. Hays calls it “the conversion of the imagination”: we begin to see the connections between Scripture and our lives, which have been transformed by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and “the word leaps the gap” from an ancient setting to where we are.
Another advantage of reading the Word in this more sustained way is that it literally does slow us down. These are strange words, much different from the newspaper or a fashion magazine. A hundred years ago, theologian Karl Barth wrote about “the strange new world of the Bible.” We can’t speed read Scripture. Nor should we. The words of Scripture present to us the Living Word himself, Jesus Christ. He is the one through whom we were made, he is the source of our salvation, and his resurrection is the guarantee of our future. If we come to know Jesus better through Scripture, it’s worth the time it takes to read it well.