As the weather continues to warm up, the proverbial pandemic lockdown is slowly easing up. After a long, snowy winter where we were forced to hunker down, the chains have now been unlocked and we are being allowed to emerge from our fortresses of solitude. We are finally able to be out and about again—though still wearing masks and staying socially distant of course. Spring air, warm temps, bright sun… it feels so good to be outside. I would imagine this is true for most of us; eagerly outdoors with almost reckless abandon—going on walks, planting gardens, riding bikes, attending the sporting events of our children and grandchildren. Going from winter into spring, in many ways, it feels like we are moving from 0 to 60 with the snap of the finger. As my wife recently observed about our own family schedule, “It feels like we’re burning the candle at both ends!” No doubt about it, the busyness has resumed!
Do you remember the “time out” from your childhood? Ah yes, the infamous child-rearing technique affectionately dubbed time out. Where a child has to spend one minute for every year of their age on the naughty chair, thinking about their not-so-nice behavior. Time out. It gives a child time to rest and regroup, albeit forced, and break away from the chaos and destruction that led them there in the first place. “Stop crying. Catch your breath. Stop flailing your arms and legs. Calm down and relax.” Surely you remember those days. Perhaps you’re still living in them. Whether your broods are toddlers or teenagers, those minutes of imposed isolation enable them to regroup from their sibling clashes, unruly outbursts, maniacal meltdowns, or reflect on any other defiant indiscretion of word or deed. For all those unavoidable and undesirable times when our kids go a bit too far and become a bit too out of control—that is why we have time out.
Hear these words from God, “In returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). God is reminding His people (us) how important it is to spend regular quiet time in conversation and meditation with the One who created time to begin with. Prayer. Worship. Bible study. These things are essential to us slowing down. But unfortunately they are usually some of the first things to go when the demands on our time and attention ramp up. This ancient Old Testament verse is a still relevant Biblical prescription for using time out. To be sure, as used by parents and teachers today, the time out is a form
of discipline; yet it is also an unexpected form of care. That is the heart of this verse—a right relationship with God spent in time out brings quietness, the ability to be calm and have peace, because we can trust Him to sustain and strengthen us. Just a few chapters later, Isaiah writes: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” (40:28-29)
So how are you doing with this? Hopefully better than me—as the old adage says, “If the Devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” How very true this is! Now it has been awhile since I have been sent to the naughty chair; though not as long as some of you might think. Lately, when it comes to my own action-packed and never-dull schedule, I find myself in constant need of a time out. I need a chance to sit back and slow down, to rest and regroup. I need to break away from the demands and clutter of the busyness in life. I need a chance to mull over what is going on, check my priorities, and recharge my battery. How about you? Are you currently overworked or exhausted? Working hard from sun-up to sun-down? The whole logic behind the idiom of a two-ended burning candle is that this is not something you can do before you get hurt, or light the house on fire. Satan knows how valuable it is for us to take a time out with God; so he distracts, tempts, and clutters up our already busy lives. As your spring schedule begins make a renewed effort to send yourself to time out. It does not have to be one minute for every year of your life (for some of you that would be an awfully long time out!) Start small, a couple of minutes each day—during your morning cup of coffee, in your car, or on the golf course. Take a few moments to slow down for a time out with God. Pray and listen. Read and reflect. Let God recharge your battery—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. After all, He is the only One who can do so.
“If you are too busy to pray, you are busier than God wants you to be.” (W.B.)