Yesterday some of my twitter friends had a discussion on whether or not Jesus led a balanced life. Now I was not really part of the discussion so I cannot comment on what was said but it seemed to me that they came to the conclusion that Jesus did not lead a balanced life and that really concerns me. It reminds me of that bumper sticker that was popular a few years back “Jesus Is Coming Back Look Busy”.
I suspect that many of us make excuses for our own busy lives by making the excuse that Jesus was busy too. But was he as busy as we seem to be? When I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sixteen years ago – partly as a result of overwork, I spent almost a year in bed with plenty of time to reflect on what I had done wrong and what I could have done differently. I spent a lot of time reading through the gospels specifically asking myself the question How did Jesus spend his time on earth? It was an enlightening study as I started to realize that Jesus really did have a very balanced life. There were times when he was really busy but those were usually balanced with more relaxed times when he walked and talked with his friends or withdrew into the hills to pray.
I identified 3 basic rhythms – the balance between spiritual and secular, work and rest and comunity and solitude. To that I would now add the balance between fasting and feasting. I explore these rhythms in detail in my book GodSpace: Finding Peace in the Rhythms of Life but here is the short version.
Jesus never made a decision without spending at least a night in prayer. How many less mistakes would we make and how much more relaxed a lifestyle would we lead if we had even a fraction of that commitment?
Jesus spent more time forming community than he did working. Community slows us down, encourages us when we are stressed, helps us to discern what we should and should not be doing.
Jesus work was focused on the in breaking of God’s kingdom not on putting bread on the table each day – that he encouraged his followers to trust God for. How much of our busyness and dysfunctional rhythms are because we are caught up in the consumer culture that focuses on the making and spending of money on ourselves?
Everywhere that Jesus went there was a party. Jesus was constantly celebrating life with enthusiasm from the time that he performed his first miracle at a wedding he was constantly encouraging people to enjoy life with enthusiasm. One of my favourite bible stories is that of Jesus making breakfast for his friends after he rose from the dead.
I think that the rhythm of the early monastic communities flowed out of their knowledge of how Jesus spent his time. They knew that he practiced the Jewish ritual of prayer several times a day and the daily offices were designed to do the same. To be honest I think that for busy people spending a few minutes in prayer several times a day is probably healthier than spending a big chunk once each morning. It helps us to refocus our lives at regular intervals on God and God’s purposes. They also had a good rhythm of work and relaxation (though actually their rest times were usually dedicated to prayer and to study). However I wonder how much better we would be if we interspersed our times of study and book work with good physical exercise – not going to the gym which is so artificial but maybe some good manual labour – walking to the shops & lugging our groceries home rather than driving might be a good idea.
We have so divorced our spiritual rhythms from everyday life that we don’t even know how to develop a life of Godly balance any more. And believe it or not as I have metnined before people who take a siesta in the afternoons are actually so much more productive afterwards that there is no way that those who have not had a siesta can equal their production.
So to all my British friends who are struggling with snow and worried that they cannot get into work – relax and enjoy it – you will probably accomplish more this week than ever because of it and maybe in the process discover something of the rhythms and the wonder of a God who created every snowflake to be different.