We often think of Church, quite rightly, as a place of community. A place where people gather to be with other people.
But Church can also be a place of respite.
Of respite from the crowds.
In the gospels, Jesus often retired to a quiet place to pray. And this can be what Church is too – a quiet place to pray. A place of refreshment.
And refreshment is often what we need from the frenzy of over-full lives. From juggling too many plates – like a clown at a circus. From applauding ourselves for our clever juggling. And also from laughing at ourselves for the sheer lunacy of setting ourselves this task in the first place.
Church can be the only place where we escape from the tyranny of so many calls on our time and attention. Where we can be at rest. At leisure. Just being – rather than doing. And thereby, as Aristotle put it, being ‘at our most human.’
Church can be a place where we observe our working lives in perspective and recognise, as Pope Francis says, ‘The problem is not always an excess of activity, but rather activity undertaken badly, without motivation, without a spirituality which would permeate it and make it pleasurable. As a result, work becomes more tiring than necessary…Far from a content and happy tiredness, this is a tense, burdensome, dissatisfying and, in the end, unbearable fatigue.’
Or as the 19th Century Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon says, ‘In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. On, on, on, without recreation, may suit spirits emancipated from this “heavy clay,” but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure. Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for a while.’
Church is a place of respite. A place to be at our most human. A place of holy inaction and consecrated leisure. A place to go out of harness for a while, to break free.
Two of the greatest regrets of the dying, according to Bronnie Ware’s excellent book The Top Five regrets of the Dying, are ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’ and ‘I wish I’d allowed myself to be happier.’
Find a place, maybe Church, where you can take respite. Where you recognise the twin temptors of overwork and ‘underplay’ for who they are and turn away from them.
And turn instead to Christ and the twin message of the gospel.
First, that God loves you. You are loved. And nothing you do or achieve or fail at will ever change this.
Secondly, that God has given you life. You have the gift of life. So live in all its abundance - and enjoy.
Posted by Martine Oborne