We often talk of the valleys of life and mountain top experiences. But these tend to be relatively short periods of time. What’s in between?
Is it merely transitioning from a peak to a valley or vice versa? Is it a vast rolling plain without much scenery? Most likely it is a complex set of contours—smaller rises, runs, dips, straightaways, rapids, doldrums. Days where you work hard but have little to show for it. Days where you work hardly at all and still have little to show for it. And of course days of great promise where the interest of all of the ‘unproductive’ days shows up as a big dividend.
Most of life seems to occur in these “in-between” phases. A friend will ask what is new and it seems like we rarely have anything of note to report. Often that is a blessing, yet we tend to second guess ourselves, wondering if our time has any significance because we seem to have nothing significant to report.
Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a time for everything under the sun, a rightness to all phases of life, including the in-between times. It is not at the gym that our muscles get stronger. Rather, we rip the fibers there, and they heal during our rest, and in that healing grow stronger. In several places, Old and New Testament, we are urged to try to live quiet lives.
That doesn’t mean boring. It just means not to seek out the mountains or valleys. They will come when they come. The periods in between are times of recovery from the last and preparation for the next. Many of the Biblical ‘heroes’ did not go from adventure to adventure with a brief commercial in between. What is remarkable are the large stretches of time that are so unremarkable the Bible didn’t waste papyrus remarking on them.
The Bible also teaches that the world will speed up. “Many will go to and fro and knowledge will increase.” (Daniel 12) “In the last days there will be times of stress.” (II Timothy 3:1) It says this with some distaste. There is the sense that people will be so consumed with the busyness of their lives that the things worth valuing are ignored for things that are worthless, and in that race we will not have time to recover and prepare. (For the record, I’m not making an eschatological point here, just a point on the pace of life.)
Just as a field can be drained of nutrients from over farming, so our lives are drained of significance and meaning from unceasing busyness and demands on our time and energy. Farmers hide the effects of over-farming by over-fertilizing. We bypass our exhaustion by over-caffeinating and over-stimulating.
Perhaps, just maybe, if we are too busy, we risk missing the remarkable moments because they didn’t stand out and so we didn’t maximize them to the level of remarkability they may have been. Or when they happen, we are too drained to meet them and they pass by and the remarkable never happens.
I see many posts on FB about the crazybusyness of life. There is a desperation in our pace, a panic in our exhaustion, the fear of falling behind. Where is the way out? When will the world stop so we can get off, at least for a few minutes of quiet?
God’s solution: Rest. Be wise in our yes’s and no’s. It may not build our popularity, but then again, popularity tends to lead to busyness, so what are we really losing?