Thursday, September 27, 2012

As the deer pants (alternative tune)

A new tune to the hymn 'As the deer pants'.
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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Resting as a teacher

One of the things I've found challenging from the time I came to uni (and in boarding school to a degree) is the matter of resting.  When I was in boarding school, this looked like not working on a Sunday.  Not because of any deep-thought-through reason, but because it had always been my family's resting day.  It was the day we went to church, and was known as the 'day of rest', as the bible describes the Sabbath - the day of rest.

However, when I came to uni, this 'taking Sunday off regardless of what needed doing' mentality started to niggle away at me.  There were some times (usually involving coursework deadlines or exams) when I'd feasibly need to work on Sunday (usually because of dedicating too many hours to playing PC games) in order to meet a deadline.  This gave the enemy a hayday when it came to my thoughts, which went something like this:

Me: Hmm, need to get that work done.
Enemy: But it's a Sunday.  You shouldn't work on a Sunday!
Me: Mmm, maybe, but I really need to get it done.
Enemy: Don't do it, or you'll be letting God down!  He wants you to rest, remember?

And so sometimes I didn't work, and then worried about the work for the rest of the day and ended up more stressed through worry.  Or I did work, and then had a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I ought to be resting instead.  Catch 22.  After all, wasn't I suppose to be resting one day a week?

Fast forward to a week ago and I remembered something someone had mentioned in passing a while back.  And it was to do with why God rested after creating the universe over 6 days.  Part of me has always just accepted that this is 'what God did' when it came to universe creating.  And as such, this was a good rule - work 6 days, take one off.  Bargain, sorted.  But this comment of my friend compelled me to look at it again.  Here's what it says in Genesis 2:2-3

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (NIV)

The first thing that struck me was that God rests, not because he was tired (this is the all powerful God we're talking about), but because the work was finished.  I am called to rest after my work is completed.  As a teacher this sometimes feels like a neverending cycle - of planning, teaching, marking, resourcing etc.  But God says (after creating the world, I might add), that he chooses to rest - because the work was done.  The trick I think, is looking at what needs to be done, and then doing it.  Not putting it off, nor procrastinating, or finding a million other little jobs to do, but to just get on and do it.  And then, when it's done, rest time arrives and the second thing kicks in.

The second thing, and this part really rocked my socks, was in verse 3 where God blesses the seventh day (the time he rested) and made it holy - literally, I think, separate or 'set apart' from the working time.  it is time to be enjoyed, to not work (or often in my case, think about work!) and to simply enjoy life.  For me, this is time with just Cat and myself.  It might be having friends over for dinner or playing a game.  It might be reading a book or listening to some music.  For me, this includes making things (and remembering to tidy them away afterwards!).  But, I think the thing that's stuck with me most from verse 3 is that this time is blessed.  Blessed to be a time of resting from all the work you've done.  Time to enjoy life outside of work.

As a teacher, work-life balance is something that doesn't come easily, and really makes you think about how you prioritise your time.  I value my time with Cat, my friends and family.  I enjoy doing fun things.  Equally, I thoroughly enjoy being a teacher.  Planning helps me get my thoughts down on paper, teaching reminds me I am human and makes me rely on God that much more each day, and working with children is an amazing privilege.  I wouldn't swap my job for another at the moment.  But equally, I don't want my week to become 6 days of working and 1 day or rest because it's a pattern.  I want to use that day of rest to bless those around me.  I want to rest because in that work-free rest I enjoy life SO much more.  I see God in my wife, my friends, the books I read and the view out my window.  Time to enjoy life is vital and nourishing.  It is just so good!

And so, as I really need to get on with my planning, I'll finish there.  I now enjoy time with our church family on Sunday afternoon and work after lunch, but have Saturday as my time to rest and spend time with my lovely wife.  That time is precious to me, and it means I prioritise it.  Work has it's place, and now I am finding I enjoy resting more.  I rest not because I feel obliged to, but because the work that needs to be done is done.  And how much sweeter that rest is because of knowing the work is finished. Just like Jesus did for me.  He lived my perfect life so I could have rest.  Epic-squared.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Washing up or Jesus

Washing up or Jesus

I don't know what kind of morning routine you have.  Maybe it includes a shower or shave and a calm, quiet cup of tea or coffee.  You may enjoy reading.  Call me crazy, I quite like to do useful things like washing up when I get up.  Weird, I know.  I like to start my day by simply praying up the things on my mind, Cat, her relay workers, my friends and family.  I don't always manage that as those of you who know me know very well that I easily get distracted.  And that's ok.  I'm very thankful that I don't have to pray and start my day reading my bible to be a Christian.

But that's all as an aside.  This morning I was about to sit down and chat to God when I noticed the washing up on the side.  Now, I can be a bit 'OCD' at times about tidiness, which my lovely wife is very patient with.  But I wanted to share the internal 'conversation' that happened as I looked at the washing up.  Because I think it happens to us all in some way or another.

The OCD part of my said that the washing up NEEDED to be done.  That it would be a BLESSING to Cat to have it out of the way.  But another part of my said that washing up can be done at any time, and that praying and spending time with God would be better.

This reminded me of a story in the bible of Mary, Martha and Jesus.  Jesus comes to visit their house and Martha busies herself cleaning the house, while Mary just sits with Jesus.  Here's the story...

   Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her"

I realised while considering the washing up that I can be so busily 'getting my house ready'.  Part of me likes to be busy, to be doing things.  I find it hard that Jesus says to 'be still that know that I am God'.  Not 'go do stuff', but just to 'know'.  Jesus enables us to take time out and enjoy just being with Him.

In reflection on the washing up thing, spending time reading my bible and talking to God resets my crazy OCD tendencies, helps me get perspective and gives me a fresh appreciation for the sheer hoard of good things God has given me in my life - chiefly in Jesus.

Jesus invites me to sit at his feet, not as a slave sitting by his master.  But as a child sitting by his father. Because of Jesus, I am God's son.  And as a child, I love my dad.  At times I might argue with him, but I love my dad. And sitting with him and just talking to him is just what I need.  As frequently as I can!