"Take a real rest": Flowing with the unforced rhythms of grace
They say we’re made of stardust.
Isn’t that an incredible thought? Just think for a second how stars are born: Gigantic clouds of dust and molecules are pulled together by gravity to form proto-stars.
Then, as they continue to pack, the cores of sufficiently massive proto-stars heat up to 100 million kelvin — enough to kickstart the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium. The energy released in this nuclear fusion prevents the further gravitational collapse of the star, and the star begins what is known as the “main sequence” of its life cycle.
As a middle-aged main sequence star, our sun is able to warm our earth with the precise magnitude and steadiness required for life to flourish. It’s a delicate balance: The slightest quiver could bring a sudden and violent end to all things.
It’s fascinating because small proto-stars, without the keys to nuclear fusion, never quite make it to stardom at all. Really massive stars, on the contrary, do not enjoy a long season of stability – they quickly expend their lifeblood, and their short lives end in a spectacular supernova.
Even massive burning balls of gas in space function in a delicate balance.
When we are out in wild places, it’s a lot easier to appreciate the natural ebb and flow of the cosmos.
In the day, the morning call of birds invites you to participate in the sacred stillness of being rather than doing. And when night comes, the sparkling spots of a blackened sunless sea make you come to terms with your finiteness. It’s sublime.
There’s a Sabbath rhythm in all of this. It humbles and brings us to a state of reflective stillness and wonder. But few of us live like that.
A typical day in the urban jungle begins with the recurring ring of an alarm a few hours too early. Meetings, assignments, projects. Sending the kids to school. Picking up the spouse. Attending this talk or that conference. Showing your face here and there – remembering to pick the kids up again.
At the end of our day, we carry our exhaustion back to unmade beds, add a couple more things to tomorrow’s schedule, before resetting that dreadful alarm and counting down the hours.
Children aren’t exempt from the fury. From a young age they are conditioned to a life packed with tuition, dance class, piano class, swimming lessons – anything and everything that might give them an “edge” in life. A child’s entire development outsourced to the mechanistic instruments of capitalism, that he may join the race with a winning strategy.
It seems that in our relentless push for security, comfort and productivity – we’ve gained the world but forfeited our souls.
We have commodified life itself, farming and bartering it for material things that do not truly satisfy. We strive. So much to go round – yet so little that remains.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Like everything else apart from God himself, human life has a carrying capacity. That is to say, there’s a limit to what we can expend of ourselves, beyond which we experience gradual degradation. But as three-part beings – spirit, soul, and body – we must pay heed to how topped up we are in these areas.
The gift of Sabbath enables us to do just that. It’s the only thing that keeps us from burning out and up like stars.
When a huge star dies, it leaves behind a black hole which sucks everything in: Matter, energy – even light itself. Burnt out humans do likewise. When pushed beyond what our spirit, soul and body can manage, life threatens to get sucked into oblivion – all energy, hope, meaning and joy.
So, paradoxically, what we ought to strive for is to enter rest. And not just any rest for that matter – God’s special rest.
“So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.” (Hebrews 4:9-11 NLT)
We need to understand our identity in Christ. Nothing we do can make Him love us any more or less.
We are loved perfectly, endlessly and unconditionally. This glorious truth frees us from the chains that bind us to fight for society’s cold affirmation of our production value. We stop adopting the manic defence and instead let God’s Sabbath rest dwell in us.
So, the next time you look up at the night sky, remember that you are made of stardust. The world has no hold on you. In the discordant noise of modern life, you can dance to God’s timeless rhythms of freedom and grace.