Stop to Breathe

Leadership demands we make a commitment to rest

Busy leader, do yourself a favor. Stop to breathe.

Before reading past this paragraph, take three slow, deep breaths. Notice the sensation in your body each time you inhale, then exhale. Notice what happens in your inner being as you pause to take those breaths. Now…breathe.

Busy leader, did something within you resist stopping to breathe? Even if you did it, did something in you fight against it? Did something insist, "I don't have time"?

Value

In our culture, busyness is considered a status symbol, a mark of a true leader. We highly value it.

We do not value rest. We treat "downtime" as a necessary evil. If we absolutely cannot go a step further, we "crash" for a few moments—and feel guilty for the duration. To our way of thinking, rest equals laziness. In our psyche, rest is sin.

Yet it's hard to dismiss the compelling testimony within us: Nonstop busyness kills. It reduces our minds to mush. It opens our bodies to disease. It replaces vitality with stupor and a crazed, mechanical running to keep up.

It's harder still to dismiss the testimony of the God who created us and breathed life into us. He established rest as a blessing and a sign of right relationship with him. He named it Sabbath (see Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12,20; Isaiah 56:2; 58:13). From the beginning, he designated significantly more time for work than for Sabbath rest. Ah, but he taught rest first.

Creating people on the sixth day, the Lord God gave man and woman a huge, seemingly impossible assignment: "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it" (Genesis 1:28).

Then "on the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work" (Genesis 2:2). He stopped and breathed. He inaugurated and modeled Sabbath.

You think you have way too much to do to take time out? Adam and Eve had an entire world to subdue. The God who gave them the assignment knew it would seem they'd have to work till they dropped to make any progress at all. So from the start, he showed them the rhythm they would need to establish in order to do the task, a rhythm of work punctuated by pauses to stop and breathe. He created Adam and Eve one day, taught them rest the next day—and then set them to work.

Centuries later, God included the charge to keep Sabbath when he gave the Ten Commandments—words that he declared "are your life" (Deuteronomy 32:47).

Lest we think Sabbath strictly an Old Testament proposition, Hebrews 4:9, 11 declares, "There still remains for God's people a rest like God's resting on the seventh day…Let us, then, do our best to receive that rest" (GNT).

January 27, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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