Responsively Yours: Claim the Blessings of Work and Rest
How do you decide when to work hard for change and when to accept what life presents? We think about this in cases of serious illnesses, when to have one more treatment and when to stop and rest in the hands of the Great Physician. One of our conference presidents faced this sort of a decision this summer. Every treatment has its risks, and despite great advances in medicine, we sometimes have to choose quality of life over a fight to extend our years.
Similar questions occur not just in times of crisis but every day. Do I grit my teeth and keep up the pace for the next lap, or do I accept that this is as much as I can push today? Do I stay at my desk and try to focus, or do I let the computer sleep while I do something else?
I suspect these questions are all really about the importance of balance. Without exercise, our bodies are weak. Without rest, our bodies are weak. We need both. What’s hard to know is what our particular body requires for strength. Advice abounds: “Get at least seven hours of sleep,” “You need at least eight hours of sleep,” “Do 20 minutes of brisk exercise daily,” “Weight-bearing exercise, stretching and aerobics are essential.” We make decisions about such things daily, consciously or unconsciously. What about our faith journeys? Is it about disciplines and gathering enough spiritual strength and sheer determination to make countercultural decisions about what makes us happy, healthy and whole and sticking to them? Well, yes, sometimes it is. We are called to a way of life that is full of challenge but leads us to a better day. We are to feel everything we feel and know that God loves us just that way.
However, we are not to act however we feel. We go to worship whether we feel like it at that moment or not. We serve the homeless in our neighborhood whether it makes us comfortable at that moment or not. We study about how systems objectify and oppress others even though we might prefer not to know or take responsibility for addressing the issue. We speak up even when it would be easier to remain silent about things that are unjust because this is what it means to be “whole persons through Jesus Christ” who are participating in the “global ministries of the church,” as described in the Purpose of United Methodist Women.
Believers in the Wesleyan tradition are strong on disciplines and practices of faith, but we need a balance. We need to remember that God loves us fully knowing that we struggle to keep our commitments, to see clearly when our experience is different or our self-interest is involved, to be bold in challenging institutions and practices that are familiar to us. We need to rest with Scripture and with “hymns, psalms and spiritual songs.” We need someone to know how we feel.
Our Wesleyan forebearers knew this. From the circles, bands and class meetings of the early years to the circles and local, district and conference United Methodist Women today, we come together for accountability, “supportive fellowship” and Christian discipleship not possible in isolation.
Thanks be to God for rest and work. Let’s make sure we get enough of both, for there’s much to be done.
HARRIETT JANE OLSON
United Methodist Women