Resolved 2012: A Confession and Commission
2012, Day 4- Resolved to: Revel in Your Rest, and for my soul to be Pacified in Your peace…
This last week, I had my first experience with the popular stretching-exercise phenomenon we refer to as Yoga.
For the last month and a half, I have been detained from my usual workout routine due to posterior tibial tendonitis (don’t let it happen to you). As a result, I’ve been forced to explore some other low impact types of exercise to occupy my healing foot and shrinking legs. Plus, as someone who always seems to have some sort of kink in my neck or knot in my shoulder blades, some prolonged stretching and muscle relaxing sounded like a good solution.
After two experiences with P90x’s “Yoga X,” I can affirm that “I hate it, but I love it!” There are some off-balanced and excruciating moments, but for the most part a good experience. It is very different from my normal workout routine, which highlights high-intensity and high energy/ explosive movements, compared to a slow and methodical flexing and stretching.
And like a good yoga instructor, Tony Horton concludes his video with some “Om’s.” Of course, he is adamant that there is nothing supernatural or spiritual about it. It’s just relaxing, controlling your breathing, and “massaging your central nervous system.” So, while the last two minutes of the video included continuous humming, I closed my eyes and prayed. I prayed slowly. With collected thoughts, I prayed deliberately. After just one minute, I realized that I hadn’t been this calm and collected in my prayer life in months. And as I thought about the last few months- the madness and travel of the holiday season, the crunch time deadlines of the end of the school year, and the simultaneous juggling act of work, seminary, and ministry- I realized how little time I have spent actually preparing myself for prayer in the recent months of my life (note to the reader- this is not to give a qualified endorsement of yoga, especially its spirituality components, at all. Instead, it is a realization that while I prayed waiting for the end of the yoga video to end, I realized how lacking my contemplative life has been).
Then, a curious contrast came to me: during most exercise (as well as life), I train to reduce the rest time and to increase the intensity and duration of my output. For the Christian, the contemplative life (especially for American) is about training to increase our Rest, and to decrease the frequency in which I succumb and fall into the frenzied and “task-saturated” life my culture demands.
In a book that has provided a timely reminder to me of this danger, Bruce Demarest warns that “our psyches are so programmed for action and accomplishment that we’re unable to hear God speak.” In fact, J.I. Packer has assessed our condition well when he states “the concept of a Christian life as sanctified rush and bustle still dominates, and as a result the experiential side of Christian holiness remains very much a closed book.”
If I’m honest with myself, a large portion of my motivation for running a compacted and crazed schedule is the hunger to win the praise and admiration of others. But what I become more aware of every day is that our world is filled with task-mongers, high-octane workflow output, and productionally impressive people. In fact, in comparison to many, my best efforts are actually quite lousy.
What is truly rare, and what the observer will find most unique, it to see someone whose speech and composure testifies to rest and relationship one has tasted and known in Christ.
As the author of Hebrews’ describes the precious rest of God’s climactic plan for His people, he charges us “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest (Heb 4:11).” This striving is not a slaving effort “upward” to impress our Father. It is a bowing and clinging downward to the feet of our Great High Priest, who sits on His throne of grace, “that we might receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (4:14, 16).
Certainly, the spiritual life of the Christian is in no way compromised by mission and ministry. Quite the contrary, spiritual health and mission are inseparable (in fact, expect to some future links and discussion of some work that others are doing in affirming this reality). But as we plan our New Years resolutions and calendars, it is actually spiritually tear-jerking to see how we can fall to the same temptations the disciples did. Is it no irony and point of contrast that it is after the transfiguration of Christ (Matt 17:2, Mark 9:2) that the disciples find themselves arguing over “who is the greatest?” (Matt 18:1, Mark 9:34).
How easy it is to taste Jesus, both in His intimacy and in his use of us as tools in His Kingdom, and to somehow miles later find ourselves chasing greatness down the trail of self-actualization, and that somehow THE Great One was eclipsed in our navigating.
This leads me to this New Years Resolution: to learn what it really looks like to strive for His rest- not by my production, but by my Priest and Shepherd’s escort.
 As we roll through the first week of the New Year, I decided to let today’s blog read as more of a journal, a reflection on the Spirit’s convictions of the heart for transformation this year
 Bruce Demarest, Satisfy your Soul, pg. 126.
 J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, pg. 74-75.