When I was 12 years old and living outside Lyon France, our family would go every couple weeks to the English library on the 5th floor of the British Consulate. It wasn’t a very big library but I was always ready to return some books and look for new ones. It was there that I first found Jules Verne’s book, Around the World in 80 Days. It’s a great book about adventure and travel that I have never forgotten. Set in 1872 the hero, Phileas Fogg, sets out to prove that someone can circumnavigate the globe in only 80 days. His friends thought it was impossible; man would never be able to travel that quickly!
139 years later and we laugh at that thought. You could now make that trip in two days – if you have the right connections. It’s one example of how busy and fast our modern world has become. Travel used to be a leisure activity. Now it’s mandatory for many people to travel from continent to continent for just a few hours of meetings.
As the pace of our world has increased, thanks to many forms of technology, people feel increasingly tried, busy and just plain worn out. Who can blame them? What used to take 80 days is now done in less than a week with many other activities added in. The most common illnesses in our day are connected to stress and burnout; simply doing too much in too little time.
The Bible always calls us to live in a counter-cultural way. It is challenging to break away from the patterns we feel are imposed on us. But as believers we need to find time to rest and renew in the presence of God.
Professor Michael Zigarelli of Charleston University Business School conducted a survey of 20,000 Christians around the world. The survey identified busyness and constant overload as a major distraction from God. Zigarelli writes, “It may be the case that 1) Christians are assimilating a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to 2) God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to 3) a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to 4) Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to 5) more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload. And then the cycle begins again.”
If we are to end that cycle we need to be intentional about building ‘down time’ into our lives and schedules. Having a twenty or thirty minute quiet and reflection time in your day-timer is not a sign of weakness or sloth. It’s allowing for you to pause and remember who you are and who God really is.
Jesus modeled it for us when he was here on earth. Before and after intense periods of activity Jesus would retreat for rest and fellowship. He rose early in the morning for prayer which was essential for his relationship with God. Luke writes that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)
Most of us don’t have the luxury of taking 80 days to travel around the world. (Although, you have to admit that would be an amazing trip.) However, we don’t always need to travel at Mach speed either. God himself issues a regular invitation for us to slow down and rest in green pastures by the still waters. I hope you take him up on the invitation.