The Secret to Increasing Your Capacity

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.

Mark 1:35

In the middle of primetime, I sink into the couch, feet propped up on the coffee table, legs forming a desk for my laptop. While proofing a piece of writing, the background music of The Voice fills the living room. I’m attempting to be present with my family while I work.

My husband leans back in a recliner sharing tidbits from his work day when my daughter breaks into the conversation from across the room and asks, “What do you think about this one?” Turning the screen of her laptop around, I glimpse a model wearing a floor length ball gown she’s considering for a prom dress. A few minutes earlier we were discussing plans for her eighteenth birthday, a milestone coming up for all of us.

Sauntering into the room holding up his cell phone, my teenage son stops in front of the television like an orator and starts talking about some new video equipment he’s extracted from his research.

Pulling back and forth between threads of conversation, my thoughts become tangled on the frayed edges of patience.

Since January of 2013, I’ve noticed a steady increase in the capacity for the breath of my work while my aptitude for noise has diminished. The reason? Sabbath is a discipline I’m embracing instead of assuming it’s an elective.

Sabbath is the sweet spot I long for as I walk out the other six days of the week. When I turn down the volume on busyness for the luxury of rest I’ve become more productive in the process. Sound crazy?

I’m following the map Jesus left us in the Gospel of Mark. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (v.1:35)

Sundown on Saturday, I leave behind piles of laundry, unchecked items on the to-do list, a full inbox of emails and writing deadlines, all without guilt. Exchange laptop and cell phone for the sacrament of presence, the pages of a dog-eared book or a favorite movie, while sprawled out on that same couch.

In the past, my need for certainty sabotaged Sabbath. Now, the clenched fist of accomplishment opens palms to surrender and perspective finds her rightful place. All those things I assumed shaped my identity become meaningless in the presence of my Father.

As conversations continue to swirl in my living room, I close my laptop, walk out to the garage collecting drinks from the refrigerator for tomorrow’s lunch bags and spot my curious lizard still frozen, clinging to a limey green leaf in hibernation. It reminds me that the outcome of dormancy in daily work is the promise of abundant life afterward.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Why aren’t we all clinging to rest like that lizard? Perhaps trust is the answer. What are some small steps you can take to include a weekly Sabbath? Do you have a difficult time trusting God to redeem the time you relinquish for rest?

PRAYER: Jesus, help me to take my hands off creation and trust you as the Creator. Teach me how to let go of what is needful in order to abide unhindered in your presence. Give me the courage to trust in the commandment of Sabbath, knowing you love me more than my work. Amen.


Pencils Down

Quitting time would be easier if deadlines, insecurity, perfectionism, and expectations disappeared. We could simply lay our pencils down and walk away from the task in peace. Unfortunately, this is not our experience. The urgent trumps the important. The urgent trumps the clock, too. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for God grants sleep to those he loves.” Conceptually appealing, yet realistically challenging when pressure knocks on the door, the wisdom of the Psalmist often fails to change our ways.

This article is part of a series at The High Calling called Pencils Down. Our hope is that in everything, from to-do lists to identity, we will be encouraged to make small advances toward stopping when it’s time to stop.

Image by Nick Ares. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.