Kingdom living is not hurried. It luxuriates in the sheer abundance of God’s watchcare. In summertime you begin to live in the way A.W. Tozer describes: “Those who are in Christ share with [God] all the riches of limitless time and endless years. God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves. For those outside of Christ, time is a devouring beast; before the sons of the New Creation, time crouches and purrs, and licks their hands” (Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer).
In The Rest of God, my book on the gift of Sabbath, I note that it is often in stillness that we discover, anew, God’s bignessand goodness. “Be still and that I am God.” In our busyness, we often miss God: the whirlwind of our doing becomes a smoke screen for evasion. Endless busyness is earwax against God’s voice and a blindfold to God’s presence. God grows mute in the din of our shouting, remote in the blur of our rushing. But stillness reawakens our wonder and attention, and allows us to become freshly present with God, keenly attuned to His speaking.
We see this played out in the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary. Martha’s failing was not in commitment to hard work-that’s commendable, and good news for those of us who like eating and clean houses. Her failing is that her drivenness has struck her deaf and blind, so that she can neither see nor hear Jesus when He’s sitting right in front of her. Sabbath rest is a way of rendering ourselves still, but not in the way of slumber: still in the way a fox when he crouches to catch a rabbit, or still in the way of a birdwatcher when she espies some rare breed of cockatoo perched nearby. Sabbath, in this way, provides an intersection with eternity. It is an earthly practice of a heavenly reality. It trains us in rhythms of kingdom life. Hebrews 4 says that heaven is the true Sabbath, so all our intervening Sabbaths are preparation for and anticipation of that.
But here’s the irony: winter, for all it’s enforced silence and stillness and waiting, is seldom restful. It is often toilsome, or tedious, or both. Summer, by contrast, is typically active and restful altogether. We feel deeply alive and deeply relaxed. It is the season par excellence for repose-to take our pose again, this time in a posture of ease and gratitude. The Bible tells us not to be anxious about anything. Not to be anxious. That’s a spiritual discipline needed most in seasons of darkness but rarely cultivated there: it’s only tested and proven there. Peace-Shalom, the presence of God so vivid and real that anxiety doesn’t stand a chance around it-is summer‘s birthright but winter’s lifeblood. So in the summer of the heart, when God seems most visible and available, learn the rhythm, the action and inaction, that avails you most in His presence. “Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Recently, I took a week of summer holidays (vacation) with my wife and my youngest daughter. Our oldest daughter joined us for the last couple of days. Our son, alas, had to work (though I took him surfing in Tofino the following week, to make it up to him).
We went to Whistler, a playground for children and grown-ups alike, and on a grand scale: a mountain over a mile high where, even in July, skiers schuss the glaciers and, lower down, cyclists on bicycles with more springs and pistons than a cotton gin swoop down switchbacks. There are lakes by the dozen, and icy rivers teeming with fish, and golf courses sprawling every which way. Paved trails for walking or cycling spiderweb it all together. There’s a township at the mountain’s base on a Swiss alpine village, with brick streets and awninged shops and restaurants with ample patio seating. The children’s play areas are made from river driftwood, artfully fitted like a marshwiggle’s teepee and darkly lacquered. Every day, we chose a new activity. We brought our bikes, and fishing rods, and walking shoes, and several good books, and a few good movies. We tramped up craggy snowy mountains, walked along wild swift rivers, and swam and kayaked and fly-fished in lakes. We slept on grassy banks. We read and read and read. We picnicked on beaches. We returned to our condominium, showered up, and made a late dinner, and then we read some more, or watched an old movie, or played a game, or went to bed early so that we could wake early, or not.
I hadn’t been that active in a year. Yet I hadn’t been that rested in a year. When I returned to work, the first few days everyone commented on how relaxed I looked.
This was the best part: I wasn’t striving for a deeper relationship with my wife, or with my daughters, or with God. I was just taking time to enjoy those relationships, and they got deeper in spite of that. Or, maybe, because of that.
The summer of the heart is like this. It’s a time for activity; why not start something new, attempt something hitherto avoided because you didn’t have the time, the spunk, the pluck? But there is little striving in such activity, strenuous as it is. You’re not in a rush, not trying to prove anything, win anything, finish anything. It’s just that the day is long, and you’re alive, and feel younger than you look. O happy day.
One simple application: I renovate my spiritual practices most often during my heart’s summertimes. I experiment with prayer techniques, for example, or try new ways to read the Scriptures. Most Mondays throughout the year, I hide away for a few hours in the afternoon to pray, read, reflect, journal. It’s a restorative practice. I don’t tamper with it-where I go, how I spend my time-when my heart is beleaguered. Then, I need the tried and the true. I need a secret garden, one sure safe place in a world of dubious advice and treacherous ground. But when my heart’s in summer, I play with this practice. I go to different places. I try new ways of meeting God. I tinker with the tried and true, and sometimes make wholesale changes. Some work, some don’t. In summer, it doesn’t matter much. There’s nothing to lose. It’s no more wasteful than trying a different flavor of ice cream-mango cherry coconut, say-and finding that you don’t like it quite as much as vanilla. But then again, it just might be the world’s best secret (pages 125-128).
Ever since I joined the ranks of being a TRUE LIFE CHRISTIAN, I have gone through many seasons of the soul. When I was less than the age of 18, however, I experienced spiritual training during my summertime of the soul, some intense, others not; it all depended on the one who was doing the training and my receptivity to take what I have learned and put it into practice. On occasion, though, I experienced wintertime of the soul like the time I needed glasses when my plan was to enlist in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot, or the time I developed type 1 diabetes of which there is no cure, or the time I broke my right-sided tibia and fibia (the lower portion of the leg) just days before I was to get my driver’s license. Those were some tough times, times that I had questioned God on what He was doing with my life.
Yet this is supposed to be about kingdom living is not hurried. How do I spend the summertimes of my heart? I’m glad you asked.
Have you ever felt in summertime the cold wind of late fall or early winter? Well, up here in New England, you sometimes get that. But I’m talking in the spiritual seasons of summer and winter, because, unlike physical seasons, it isn’t uncommon for one to experience bliss and then a phone call later has the power to put you into the dead of winter where your bereft of anything, questioning God what He is doing with your life. Those wintertime events in the midst of spiritual summer have shaped my personal and spiritual life, since it caused me to rely on God evermore.
The summertimes of my heart has seen failures and successes. For instance, I used to read the Bible everytime before work. It is not that hard because I worked 2nd shift, but now it is harder since I work first shift which means I have to intentionally carve out time. I miss reading whole swatches of the Bible. Going back a decade or two, I remember reading The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible composed by Moses edited by over a thousand people throughout the time when the Bible was first canonized. And living in America, the Northeast, in the state of New Hampshire where we have the motto on our driver’s license plates “Live Free Or Die,” the King James Version is all we had in the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s. However, I wanted to see what various versions of the same core Bible to see if I could gather any insight into His Word granted by the Holy Spirit. So I got my mother to buy me the New King James Version. I wasn’t satisfied with that, so in a few years, I experimented with the New International Version, followed by the Amplified Version, followed by the Tynsdale and the New Revised Standard Version Bible. I remember reading the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and one of my favorite translations-the New Century Version, because it explains the Bible for ordinary people where you don’t have to have a theology degree to get something out of it. Then I got audiobooks where I could hear the inflection across every page of the Holy Bible. Again, some were excellent, and others, not so much.
Yet, if I didn’t have these summertime of the heart experiences, I would just like to say that I would not have been as well versed in the Scripture as I am today. It has given me Scripture in a different but whole new light. Each time I read or listen to Scripture, I become wiser and richer for the information I get out of reading and listening which my prayer was to be as wise as Solomon without the same outcome. Thus, I have to remember, God’s wisdom put to action through the physical life of the believer, can lead to saving grace if you put your whole trust in Him, and trust He knows what He is doing especially in times of one’s life where you wish to take control of your life back.
Now, how about you? Is there something that you could do differently when you’re in the summertimes of the heart? For kingdom living is not hurried.
“How Do You Measure Your Spiritual Growth?”: An Interview With Mark Buchanan’s Spiritual Rhythm Book
Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger