I was safely tucked against the tree when three came trotting by. Two in the lead, one closely following like Rudolf and the sleigh. They were so close that I heard their hooves move through the grass. I froze, not wanting to encourage them to go any further. To no avail, they continued, briskly, beyond my arrow’s reach and then out of sight. A bit discouraged but not dejected, I settled in and continued the wait; now, more cautious than before to remain motionless for the hour or so left in the day.
Out of nowhere, like the triplet, two yearlings, and a doe scampered across my kill zone and into the woods. Now bewildered, I wondered whether they’d seen or scented me; but I was downwind. My countenance slumped. There wasn’t much I could do but wait for nightfall and slink home.
The sun was almost nestled in its bed as a third trio rumbled past my perch; moving far too fast to get either a draw or a bead on them. Joined by a fourth now at 80 yards, these stopped to graze, to taunt me. They were well beyond my proficiency, and so, I waited more discouraged than before.
In hunting, stopping is deadly. Although I’ve seen deer culled while on a full sprint, ethical hunters wait for a clean shot for a humane kill. But for people, it’s just the opposite! Stopping is essential, a non-negotiable. It’s when we fail to cease, to rest and learn our personal limits that we place ourselves squarely in the kill zone. We aren’t machines that run non-stop; even apparatus is shut down and serviced from time to time. No, we have God-given perimeters that, when heeded, keep us safe, healthy and productive.
I’ve heard many people quote the Bible to justify their busyness. In Proverbs 6 the writer addresses the sluggard and suggests he ponder the ways of the busy ant, the ant being the antithesis of the slothful person.
Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest. ~ Proverbs 6:6-8
What are we teaching our children and our children’s children when we refuse to rest?
Did you know that most worker ants live about 55 days! Perhaps, the greater the output the shorter the lifespan? Is this God’s message to us? The target of Proverbs 6 isn’t the productive person who settles into a rhythm of work and rest, but rather the one jobless, living in his parent’s basement, playing video games in his underwear at the age of 35 and still expecting to be a millionaire by 36. When we take this passage out of context and suggest that a non-stop, always-on-the-go lifestyle is pleasing to God, are we not doing ourselves an injustice? What are we teaching our children and our children’s children when we refuse to rest? Are we not visiting upon them the sins of our fathers who taught us that the 5-day work week is for wussies? Are we not shackling them to the same kill zone that treats us as slaves?
Given our culture, and the ant, no passage is more appropriate now than Matthew 11:28-30.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Perhaps the greatest presents we can give this season are moments of quiet and rest.
Perhaps the greatest presents we can give this season are moments of quiet and rest. Over 2,000 years ago God came and settled in a manger. Eternity paused as a newly birthed baby, caused shepherds, sheep and kings to cease their busy lives and honor this child. Christmas isn’t about continuing the rush of the past 11 months, but learning to stop, relishing the beauty of life and the gift of God. To live richly by enjoying family and friends; engaging others with the same affection God shows us through His son. Coming to Jesus should profoundly mark our lives with pace and practice that are not of this world.
I’m just rolling in from Palmer Municipal Fire Department’s Monday evening drill. The crew sacrificially serves the community every day. They don’t have time for superfluous exercises and busyness, but only that which keeps them prepared, efficient and out of the kill zone. They respond to every call anticipating the worst and wanting to go home to their families. They are the "ants" in proper context. I’m pleading with you, in this Advent season, to take time out from the decorations, shopping and craziness to stop. Start linking yourself to a Godly rhythm and find rest for your souls. Don’t waste time rushing here and there in busyness. Focus on what matters, what truly matters. Play hard, work diligently, love significantly, rest deeply. Stay out of the kill zone.
*For a better understanding of what Sabbath can do, please see my other blogs on the topic by searching “Sabbath”.