The Value of a Pause

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never hurries? That he never seems stressed out? Angry, yes. Grief-stricken, yes. Rolling his eyes at the latest dumb-headed disciple mishap, yes. But stressed, hurried, anxious? Never.

I, in contrast, often find myself constantly hurrying, constantly stressed out, and constantly overwhelmed with work, relationships and expectations that cascade around me. 

Yet Jesus promises us rest and renewal: 

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message).

I’ve been trying to receive this promise of rest by practicing a two-minute pause between activities, setting an alarm so I know when the time’s done. I sit in silence with God and receive a little breather. 

Here’s what happened my first attempt:

8:30 a.m. Pause #1: The thought comes that maybe I should do my daily Bible reading. (Too often I rush into email, so sometimes it's more like a weekly reading.) The verses center and calm me.

Noon Pause #2: Almost 3.5 hours later, I realize I forgot to pause. I spent the whole morning on the computer—emails, writing, reading, planning—and didn’t even get up for a drink or go to the bathroom. My teenage kids were sleeping (the joy of teens on a school vacation day) so I worked uninterrupted. I often feel rushed and harried as I juggle ministry, kids, chores and dog, so when I can focus without interruption, I go hyper-efficient to get as much done as possible. I don’t really want to pause because I’m itching to keep on working.

But in the quiet the thought comes, almost with a smile, "Maybe you should have lunch now." I wrestle a tiny bit. But it’s noon and I've been sitting unmoved except for eyeballs and fingers. I decide to make nachos for the kids who awake delighted. We enjoy lunch, have a fun conversation, even laugh and joke.

1:00 p.m. Pause #3: I pause before going back to the computer. In the quiet God brings to mind what I should prioritize, so I do.

3ish, Pause #4:  A praise song floats through my mind. It resonates throughout the rest of the afternoon.

Lately, the importance of rest—working in a restful way, resting in God, resting our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits—crops up everywhere I go as I meet with faculty, with students, with staff, with my kids and of course, with myself. 

At the Boston Faculty Fellowship, we studied how the prophet Daniel and his friends, living in Babylonian exile, chose to only eat vegetables out of obedience to God—and God made them flourish beyond all others. Today, in our harried world, maybe the vegetable we should eat is rest, trusting that:

  • God is in control so we don't have to be.
  • God continues working so we can rest.
  • God's got our back so we can relax.

I continue to attempt the discipline of two-minute pauses—often forgetting and plunging through work. But each time I've paused, God’s given me a little nudge towards what I need to do or receive or remember for the next section of work.  

Want to join me in this resting adventure?

About the Author
Associate Director of GFM

Kathy Tuan-MacLean serves as Associate Director for InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries (GFM) and just celebrated her 25th year with InterVarsity!  She’s also studying to become a spiritual director.  Kathy has a Ph.d. in Human Development & Social Policy from Northwestern University, is married to Scott, a former InterVarsity staff, and has three children—one in college, the other two in high school.