I’m pleased to welcome Shelly Miller here today as her new book, Rhythms of Rest, sings so well with everything we value here in our little Internet space. Shelly knows the importance of creating space for the soul to breathe and I’m deeply grateful for her message.
From a park bench, beneath a canopy of trees, I hear the distant sound of an ambulance siren and birds chirping in their various “dialects.” A middle-aged couple walks by, heads down, as if I am invisible.
Yellow leaves pirouette six feet above my head onto the pages of my journal. Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . . tic-tic-tic . . . tic-tic-tic . . . raindrops begin to fall, and before I can put my pen and journal inside my bag, the rain ceases.
Pulling out a cardigan, I wrap it around my shoulders, when a cool breeze chills and blows hair into my face. The sun slowly shifts, creating shadows, a signpost in nature that pulls my mind back to obligation. I begin mentally scouring my refrigerator and pantry for what I can reheat on paper plates for dinner.
For some, brackets of time alone on a park bench to journal the sights, sounds, and smells of a wide expanse in nature is an illustration of extravagant wastefulness. Or a lavish indulgence allotted those who are retired from work life.
What is this accomplishing?
Research reveals that when we relax, or enter into a window of daydreaming, the brain does not slow down or stop working at all, but rather many important mental processes happen during those times in the same physiological way the brain works when we sleep at night.
Accruing evidence suggests that these times of rest are important for recalling personal memories, imagining the future, and feeling social emotions with moral connotations.
In Sabbath, we allow our brain to make sense of our busy lives. We process what we have learned during the other six days of the week and apply meaning to what we’ve overlooked while moving at a frenetic pace.
Sitting on a park bench, I stare into space, replay conversations, wrestle through unresolved questions like a mathematician solving an equation. I reflect on previous decisions, and during introspection, mull over the events of the past few months. I rewrite negative inner dialogue into a positive, hopeful outlook.
Epiphanies come in the shower, alone on a quiet walk, staring out the window of my office, driving in a silent car, and while listening to the sound of bird chatter in Holland Park.
In a culture where it is common to attach value with utility, we train ourselves to feel good about our ministries, our church activities, sports teams, livelihoods, and parenting, as long as what we do provides a measure of usefulness and positive calculable outcomes.
In a busy world that prescribes more—more exercise, more diets, more involvement in community, more engagement on social media, more ways to make money, more education, and more resources for ramping up productivity—a rhythm of daily silence and weekly Sabbath is making a (quiet) comeback.
Solitude is a state of being, an isolation or aloneness that God uses in our lives for specific reasons. And solitude of the heart is an attitude of quietness; a state of living unguarded, confident, and stable despite circumstance.
The more we experience the work of solitude within us, we begin to identify the rested from the restless, the discontented from the contented, the broken from the whole; we begin to decipher failure, missteps, and successes through a heart aching for eternity
Have you trained yourself to pause?
Do you pay attention to your heart, warning you it’s time to slow down?
Or do you need someone to tell you to stop because you’re too busy to notice the warning signals?
Rhythmic pauses help us remember where we are going when life becomes crowded and disorienting.
Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications.
Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, is now available. Find more of Shelly’s writing at ShellyMillerWriter.com and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.