The holidays have passed. The kids are back to school. The Christmas décor is sagging, reflecting the hurried pace of the last few weeks. Sigh. Time to pack them away for next year.
It’s ironic that in the rush of the preparation for the big day (Christmas), the peace of Christ can seem illusive and slightly out of reach – lost in the crowded malls, long lines, overcrowded schedules and unrealistic expectations. The voice of God that should be preeminent this time of year can too often seem distant – drowned and muffled by the voices telling me to “go”, “do”, “eat” and “spend”.
The week after Christmas is one of my favorite weeks of the year because the pace of life slows down dramatically.
This year in particular, our family made a conscious decision to hit “pause” to create space to rest, reflect, refresh and enjoy relationships.
No schedule. No commitments. I didn’t cook. Didn’t do laundry. Didn’t clean our house. I bought a ham, a palette of Cup of Noodles, made sure we had cereal, juice and milk and called it good. (In case you’re wondering about vegetables, there are a small handful of freeze-dried peas and carrots in every cup of noodles.)
Don’t judge me. It was only one week.
As the pace of life slowed and our scheduled enjoyed some much needed breathing room, I began to realize how easy it is to substitute activity for relationship. Spending a lot of time with someone doesn’t guarantee that you’ll truly see them, intently listen to them and authentically connect with them.
Could the same can be true regarding our relationship with God? Can we become so consumed with our Christian activity that we overlook the necessity of pausing long enough to hear His voice? Stopping to appreciate the nuanced beauty of His creation? Lingering to enjoy His presence?
We can go to church, serve in ministry and even read the Bible, yet still fail to see Jesus, hear His voice and connect with Him intimately. Time with God isn’t a box we check off every day. It should be a delight, not an obligation. Yet, when our schedules scream it can easily be reduced to a task in a long line of duties and expectations.
In a culture that values how fast we run, how much we do, how full our schedules are, Jesus, during His ministry on earth, modeled something quite different for us. He exemplified an unhurried life that valued and delighted in spending time alone with His Father. The book of Luke gives us a glimpse into how Jesus handled the delicate tension between the demands of His schedule and His relationship with His Heavenly Father:
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16
Jesus was unquestionably a busy man whose time was in great demand. He also possessed God’s perfect love and intense compassion for people, feeling the weight of every need, every heart break and every loss. Yet, He wasn’t driven to meet every need and demand.
Jesus’ schedule wasn’t dictated by the circumstances surrounding Him. He made time alone with his Father His first priority and that is what fueled the rest of His decisions and charted the course of His day.
The clutter of activity and over-commitment wearies our soul but doesn’t take us very far.
Jesus knew this.
Jesus knew that He couldn’t meet every need and make everybody happy.
Jesus knew that true worth and value are found in intimate relationships, not in big crowds, productivity and packed schedules.
He knew that clarity for his life could only be found through spending time in the presence of God.
Jesus knew that clarity and rest are only found when we create space for the presence of God.
Jesus knew that to hear the voice of God, you had to clear away the noise and clutter.
And Jesus knew that it’s in the silence, in the space, where God begins to transform us.
This year, let’s make a commitment to pull away, create space, be present and listen to God who’s desperately longing to speak to us.