The past year Clyde has filled our lives with joy and with terror. We’ve both laughed and screamed our heads off. You might say our life has been a steady stream of clips from the movie, Marley and Me. Also, sidetone, speaking of Marley and Me, a few months ago I discovered that Jennifer Aniston also has a dog named Clyde and I just feel like that is significant and worth mentioning. Anyway… I’m being too hard on him. We love Clyde and he really is a great dog.
He has also been the quintessential puppy. There are moments where he clearly doesn’t have a clue. And then two minutes later, my jaw drops because of how smart he appears to be. One of these jaw-dropping quirks is that nearly every time we’re watching TV and Clyde jumps on the couch, he manages to step on the remote. No matter where the remote is on the couch, by the way. Sometimes he changes the channel, but 9/10 times, when he steps on the remote, he hits the pause button.
I truly don’t know how he does it. Sometimes, it drives us bonkers, but most of the time, we laugh and he cocks his head like he clearly missed the punchline. I’m pretty sure it’s completely accidental, but sometimes I find that this quirk is a good reminder about the power of a pause.
For me, life often feels full and fast-paced, even in the middle of what many have deemed, The Great Pause. There are still schedules to keep, deadlines to hit, tasks to complete. And trying to keep up while simultaneously learning to reconfigure has been complicated, to say the least. I’m finding that a pause right now, in the middle of The Great Pause, is just as important as it would have been before, and just as important as it will be in the future. Because we were never meant to run on empty.
Growing up, one thing that was extremely formative in my life was the opportunity to participate in mission trip service projects, both domestic and international. I would typically go with a group who partnered with a local organization in the area, and we would help to support them however they needed us to. One organization that was and is particularly close to my heart is Faith Ministries in a town called Reynosa, Mexico. Usually, when we would travel to be with them, their need involved us helping to build concrete houses for local families. Now, before you begin to think that we were somehow saving the day for these families, let me assure you that we were very much inexperienced middle and high school students, and the fact that they LET US participate in the building of their home was a gift to us. Not the other way around, trust me!
Anyway, I first learned the power of a pause through these experiences. Typically, we worked in the heat of summer, and the leaders of the worksite would start each day reminding us to take breaks and drink plenty of water. They knew the reality of heat exhaustion and dehydration. We would nod along through their warnings, water bottles in hand, but really, we just wanted to get to work.
And so we’d start. We’d mix the concrete and then work to make progress on the house. It was a simple set up and process, but it required a lot more physical exertion than you’d think. Hence the frequent reminders to take a break.
I always found myself very resistant to the breaks though. Mostly because I wanted to prove myself - to prove that I was strong and that I could keep up. And I also thought that taking a break meant that I would somehow miss out, and I wanted to be part of the progress. So, in my inexperience, I would just keep going until I started to feel nauseous and weak, meaning I’d pushed myself too far. And then, because I’d basically run myself into the ground, I was pretty much useless the rest of the day.
I quickly learned that breaks throughout the day were key to being more effective in the long run. I needed rest and water and shade. If I took a break long before I felt like I needed to, I was able to more consistently contribute to the work at hand.
Just like I physically needed a break on those worksites, our entire beings need regularly scheduled breaks, too. We might not be constructing a building, but as Emily P. Freeman often says, “We are building our lives.” And I’ll add that we also contribute to the building of God’s Kingdom through the work we’re called to.
I do want to note that work in and of itself is not a bad thing. While our worth is not determined by our productivity, we were created to contribute in specific, unique, God-given ways. And even though the work God calls us to is sometimes difficult and strenuous, it’s not designed to run us ragged.
In the creation story, we read that God chose to rest on the seventh day. Not because God needed to, but because God knew we would need to. God sets that example, that rhythm for us. We see Jesus follow suit as he prioritized time and space away from the crowd to recharge and refresh, so that his ministry could continue to have impact. Pausing is not selfish and it does not hinder God’s purpose for us because it’s always been a part of our design and a part of God’s plan.
Now, there is a lot to say about rest, and Sabbath, and pressing pause and there is no way I will be able to cover it all in one episode. But I do want to share a few things I’m learning.
First, pressing pause reminds us that we are ultimately dependent on God. It reminds us of 2 Corinthians 12:9, that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Pausing acknowledges our need and admits that we cannot do what God calls us to do on our own. As author Sharon Hodde Miller wrote in her book, Free of Me, “The world does not rest on your shoulders, and that is good news.” If we are going to do God’s work well, we need the regularly scheduled breaks that God had in mind from the very beginning.
Second, when we press pause, we don’t have to worry about missing out on God’s purpose for us. I mean, think about it. When we press pause on our remotes during our favorite show or movie, we don’t miss out on the story. We start back right where we left off. God isn’t going to run ahead without us. We won’t fall behind or miss out on what’s in store. God matches our pace. And while we hear a lot about waiting on the Lord, I think we often forget that God waits for us, too. Like the shepherd in Luke 15, God waits for and pursues the stragglers. Not impatiently or begrudgingly, with Jeopardy music playing in the background, but with a joyful love and faithfulness bigger than we’ll ever be able to comprehend. The hurry and hustle just aren’t as impressive in God’s Kingdom. It might feel like the world is passing us by, but God takes each unhurried step with us. And I don’t know about you, but I find incredible relief in that.
Lastly, pressing pause is not punishment. It should be something we look forward to in our daily, weekly, monthly, yearly schedules. We should find refreshment, enjoyment, and delight in the pause, which means that your pause might look different than mine. In her book Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton reflects on pressing pause, on Sabbath keeping, and writes,
“I know what it’s like to have rest turn into delight, and delight turn into gratitude, and gratitude into worship. I know what it’s like to recover myself so completely that I am able, by God’s grace, to enter into my work… with a renewed sense of God’s calling and God’s presence.”
That’s the goal. That through our pause, we would enter back into our work with a renewed sense of God’s presence and God’s call.
Today, may we remember that it’s important and okay to press pause. Even in the middle of The Great Pause. It’s okay to stop. To breathe. To recover. We need to. May we find rest and when we do, may we know that God slows down with us, refreshes us, and enables us to do the work we’re called to well.