Tuesday 10 July
At #Sligo18, we had the pleasure of hearing Eoghan Heaslip, the pastor of St. Catherine’s church in Dublin, speak on the value and discipline of rest. His message centred around the theme of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – one that is woven through many of the talks at #Sligo18. Here’s a summary from Miryam Lightbody:
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality rests on the foundation of two concepts: that emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable, and that we need to learn how to slow down and cultivate that ‘being with Jesus’. The second point, that ‘being with Jesus’ is the focus of this message on rest.
Rest is central to who God is and what He is like and what our lives should look like in response.
The word mathétés appears over 200 times in the Bible. It is the Greek for a disciple, learner or pupil. Do you see yourself as a learner? Do you see yourself as a learner of Jesus and His people? God wants to renew in us this call to be learners again. He wants us to be learners in every area of our lives; how we spend our money, how we love those around us, and how we relate to others.
The biblical model is that we are drawing down on our relationship with God to change how we live. We are weary and burdened but God wants to give us rest, He says in the New Internatinal Version “I am gentle and humble in heart… my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality looks like Jesus’ invitation into rest. It is a permanent shift into walking and working with Jesus out of rest.
This yoke refers to a tool used by oxen farmers, which would have been a universal image until humanity advanced technologically. When oxen plough fields together they make a long narrow furrow in the earth. They aren’t born with an innate sense to pull something heavy behind them, they learn how to from experience.
Jesus’ first point is that the way that a farmer trains a young ox is by pairing it with an experienced one so that they will both walk side by side sharing the same yoke – a large wooden structure that stretches across both of their shoulders, connecting them.
This is Jesus inviting us to join with Him, it is an invitation into love, not duty. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is not a set of practices to figure out alone; you just need to walk with Jesus and let Him show you how to do it.
The idea of walking with God has such significance. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is saying that the yoke of rest is what a connection with Him looks like; a life spent living in step with Jesus out of rest. This life of rest is an invitation and our yes to His invitation is what gives our lives meaning and purpose.
You do nothing and God loves you. This is the ultimate picture of rest.
We have a calling to rest, to grow in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Eugene Peterson says that “a busy pastor is a lazy pastor.” Not making time and space for rest demonstrates a lack of boundaries and a life where there isn’t a significant enough value placed on ourselves. We need to learn to live sustainably. There are stories of pastors who are working so hard that they find rest in sickness. These stories just show that the order that we have is all wrong.
Eoghan experienced this lack of boundaries. He felt that to validate the work that he did, he needed to succeed and it led him to a burnout.
On the seventh day, He rested from His work, from all His work, from all the creating that God had done. We have been made for both rest and work, God had a particular order in mind when He made this world, an order that we have lost. This is made evident from the very first day of humanity when the humans were invited to rest; they hadn’t done anything.
We live life to work to rest and rest to work but we have been made to do both. There is an order there, to live a life where we rest and relate to Him, and then we go on to steward creation and care for it.
This is not an attractive invitation. “Come and die” is just as unattractive as it has always been. It is an invitation to lay everything down to embrace the paradox of living with Jesus out of rest. A rest, which we can see in John’s gospel, is a rest of great pruning and great fruitfulness.
There is a responsibility among pastors to lead by example, they need not only to tell their flock to take a break but also to model it too. People talk about the concept of the‘higher capacity leader’ like it’s a strength when it’s not.
There are questions to ask ourselves. Do you work more or rest more? What fills your tank? What resources you?
For Eoghan, it is going down to the RDS and screaming his head off at the rugby. He is a season ticket holder, which is expensive but worthwhile because it resources him. If the only time you’re in God’s presence, calling on his strength, is when you have something to prepare for, or a message or study to lead, then you know there is something wrong. The discipline of rest is a daily, permanent act.
Eoghan knows that within him is an urge to go it alone, to manage without God, and it takes constant effort to rest, but it is so valuable.
How can we rest?
One way is to ensure that you don’t work three sections of the day. Eoghan shares that he knows that when he leaves for work and returns home he knows his kids are watching him, that they’re aware of his balance.
If your family are getting the worst of you there are big doubts that that’s kingdom; for the people closest to us to be losing out the most for the church.
Taking a day off every weekend is a helpful way to build in rest, then when unavoidable things come up on that day, you pick another day that week in lieu of the day that should have been for rest and make that your new rest day for the week. Without this time for rest, your emotions go down and you’re more prone to anger at the ones you love.
It is so important to ask yourself: what resources me? Eoghan shares that for his wife it’s the sea. That even after a long day, he will come home and they drive to the sea and walk along the shore and that strengthens her. She knows that she needs this rest time because, as a psychotherapist, she carries a lot of other people’s burdens throughout the day and needs to be built up herself.
Going on retreat is another way to make time for rest. Eoghan shares that he goes for a few days on a a silent retreat in Glendalough every year. It takes a while alone with yourself to clear your head and really be restored but it is worthwhile.
It is so important to actively decide to make your own time for rest. If you serve on a team in church or wherever you work, you can’t count on your team members to make this time. Realistically, why would someone else on your team tell you to leave? Eoghan shares of a church planter that he knows of who does an inventory of each month’s rest to evaluate how he’s doing.
It is so valuable to commit to fixed patterns and rhythms – to actually put it into your diary that this is your rest time.
Eoghan shares that counselling has been a significant resource for him. It gives him comfort that he knows that someone else who knows him and his stuff will ask him how he is and he can’t just say “it’s all fine.”
What if our spouse and our family is getting the worst of us? If we are burning people out all around us it isn’t good. The culture in churches where we take on interns and volunteers for exhaust people with 20% of the people doing 80% of the work.
Eoghan created a space for questions following his talk in order to help people to work through the ‘hows’ of making time for rest.
In one response, he shared about how his church lost a key children’s worker who left to be part of a church plant. They were happy for this person and the people in the community who went with them, but it left a gap. Eoghan explains that he saw this gap in the church and felt the personal urge to fill it, but he had to be strong and say to the congregation “well, until someone leads this, we won’t have that group then.” This caused volunteers to appear out of nowhere and fill the role beautifully. Sometimes we need to leave a gap so God can fill it.
This is why you need to pick your battles. Sometimes you just don’t have the resources and you have to accept that “we may not be able to do things the way we’ve been doing them.”
In response to a question about how to engage in rest when your work gives you such a sense of value and you know that you do it to be valued and validated, Eoghan suggested talking to your loved ones. Talking to your community, people in small groups and ministries that you know and sharing that feeling with them and getting support from people is vital.
There is a call to abide in God, to discern the right thing. Jesus needed to do that, He said “I only do what I sense the Father doing and I only say what I sense the father saying.” Jesus would withdraw from the crowd to rest with God, but His withdrawal was mission in incubation. His withdrawal gave Him more authority and clarity in who He was and what the Father needed from Him. The needs in our churches that we feel driven to meet are huge and we need to find out how to invest in and spend time with God.
We need to live lives with God at the centre. Eoghan shares that, if we fear that we will fall into selfishness if we engage in rest, we need to ask ourselves “what are the areas of my life where God isn’t the centre?” There is power in the quote “if you want to get on with God, get off His throne.” But it is valuable to remember that Jesus had fun, it’s not that we have to be praying the whole time we’re resting, we can be having fun and God is there amidst it.
For some people it is helpful to have a rule of life, to ask yourself “how am I living as a whole?” It is so valuable to be intentional and ask yourself “what is going to resource me?” This is why we need to set a time for an inventory at the end of each month, just like a team who set goals and then later reflect and ask themselves “are we actually doing these things?”
Eoghan concludes by saying that if you feel burned out it is so important to talk to people and get help, get support, get built up again, ending on the challenge to ask yourself ,“Do you know who you are in God?”