31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
March 31, 2019
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Have you ever wanted to take a nap? Really, really wanted to take a nap? Been so bone weary and exhausted, emotionally exhausted, mentally exhausted, physically exhausted, that all you wanted to do is lay down and sleep, rest, find some peace?
This paraphrase of Jesus’ words in Matthew really speaks to me when I am feeling that way:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out…? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Jesus understood the need to get away, to take time for rest, time for prayer. Eight times, the gospel of Luke mentions Jesus withdrawing “to deserted places and pray[ing]” (Luke 5:16). Scripture even tells us of a time when Jesus slept through a storm, even though his boat was in danger of being overturned. (Luke 8:22)
Jesus invites us to get away with him, to take a real rest, to learn the unforced rhythms of grace, but we don’t. Even with our culture’s current focus on mindfulness and stress-reduction, we don’t take a break; we don’t even take a breath.
For me, it’s because this voice inside my head is always saying, “You can’t rest! You can’t take time to be with God. People need you. People are depending on you. You have to keep going. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.”
Some of us get taught this voice by the families we grew up in, and some of us get taught this voice by the faith communities we grew up in. Years ago, I heard of a church where the women of the community were taught that joy is to be found in putting Jesus first – J, then others – O, and finally yourself last – Y. The women in this church community weren’t ever getting a nap.
It’s dangerous though to ignore our exhaustion, to ignore our feelings, to ignore our bodies. In her book, Sitting Still Like a Frog, Eline Snel writes:
Your body can tell you a great deal. Like a finely tuned instrument, it responds to emotions such as shock, tension, fear, and happiness… These signals are all there for a reason, telling you something about your experience of this moment, about your limits and your needs. Stiff shoulders; heart palpitations; a knot in your stomach;…Your body registers it all.
While we may pick up on most of these signals, we do not always respond properly. We tend to dismiss unpleasant feelings or thoughts by passing judgment or behaving in a certain way: ‘Don’t cry; crying is childish” or “The work needs to get done, so I’ll keep going.” Sometimes we simply deny the signals: “Tired? Not at all!”
The upshot is that we carry on working, pleasing others,….or taking care of too much all by ourselves. And to get rid of the horrible feeling inside, we start looking for an escape – by snacking, becoming excessively rambunctious or withdrawn, or taking our negative emotions out on someone else. But these behaviors offer no real and lasting solution. The result is double trouble: that unpleasant feeling is now compounded by destructive and unhealthy habits. (Snel, 39-40)
I cannot imagine you are surprised by Eline’s words. At some time in all of our lives, we have all ignored our bodies’ needs and signals and have turned to destructive and unhealthy habits that do not treat our body like God’s holy temple.
Ironically, when we choose a path other than the life, the rest, the unforced rhythms of grace Jesus invites us to know, when we push ourselves to keep going, to keep working, to keep caretaking, we find that either we have nothing left to give or we discover that we are actually doing damage to others. Our exhaustion, anger, sadness, pain have the power to transform the world but not in the ways God calls us to.
We need to fill ourselves with Christ’s love and peace if we are going to transform the world with Christ’s love and peace.
We need to take good care of our body, honoring it as God’s temple, filled with God’s holy spirit, if we are going to transform the world with Christ’s love and peace.
Knock, knock, (Who’s there?) Banana. (Banana Who?) Knock, knock, (Who’s there?) Banana. (Banana Who?) Knock, knock, (Who’s there?) Orange. (Orange Who?) Orange you glad I didn’t say banana.
That silly joke was for any and all of us who are so stressed out and exhausted right now that we are living in our reptilian ‘fight or flight’ brain.
And now that I’ve hopefully helped you laugh and move into your mammalian brain where we learn or even your neocortex where we process meaning, I would like to nurture your Christian faith journey by sharing a few ways to bring more of Christ’s peace into your life so you can share more of Christ’s peace with your family, friends, and community.
First, any and every activity that gets you to breathe deeply, to fill yourself with God’s Holy Spirit is good – because when we are filled with God’s spirit, we cannot be filled with other things. So walk, run, practice yoga, Tai Chi, Sing. Sing. Get out and garden.
All good, however, if finding time to walk or garden or stretch feels like another burden, do you have 6 seconds for the Jesus prayer?
As you breath in, you say to yourself “Jesus Christ, you are the light of the world” and as you breath out, silently say, “Fill my mind with your peace and my heart with your love.”
Jeffrey Miller calls taking a deep breath a six second vacation, and it is amazing how much more peaceful our responses can be when we take just 6 seconds to breath deeply of the Spirit. Close your eyes and try it with me. (Miller, The Anxious Organization, pg 61)
This past week, someone taught me a new prayer that reminds us we are God’s temple, filled with the Spirit: I am in the infinite Spirit; the Infinite Spirit is within me. Try that one when you have a bit more space around you.
There are lots of mindfulness practices you can engage in; there are prayers like the Serenity Prayer or the Knots (k-n-o-t-s) prayer. Choose a step that feels right for you and right for your life. No judgment. No pressure.
Take one small step that allows you to take Jesus’ hand and get away with him, for a real rest, to walk with him beside still waters, and lay down with him in green pastures, learning the unforced rhythms of grace.
Take a deep breath that allows you to be aware of your body, to care for your body, to be filled with the Spirit, to embody Christ’s peace.
Take a step; Take a breath;
Know Christ’s peace,
so you can be Christ’s peace;
Be Christ’s peace,
so you can share Christ’s peace;
Share Christ’s peace
and transform the world.