The weather is very hot. But summer must be hot. We cannot resist the flow of nature. The most flexible life is to live according to the flow of nature. Nature has four seasons. The sea has high tides and low tides. God’s wisdom is found in the flow of nature. Although global warming is causing a problem, the scorching sun is essential for a grain to ripen. The word ‘ripen’ means for fruits or grains to be fully developed with full kernels. The seeds planted in spring will be harvested in autumn after being ripened under the summer sunshine. In the summer sunlight, unripe green apples are ripened to be red apples. Sour apples are ripened to be sweet apples.
We cannot shorten the summer just because it is hard to bear the heat. For this reason, we should lay our hearts down and take a break in the hot summer. You should sit in the shade and rest for a while. When it is too hot, it is wise to stop and rest for a while. That is why we mostly go on vacation during the summer. We go on a trip. We have a short break even when we are on a short-term mission. It is good to work hard, but you have to work wisely. Compare the woodcutters who work hard without their axes being sharpened with those who work and rest regularly. The woodcutters who work and rest regularly produce better results. This is because the woodcutters are able to sharpen their axes regularly while resting.
The Bible teaches that it is wise to sharpen an ax’s edge. “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.” (Ecc 10:10). If you continue to use the ax without sharpening the edge, it becomes hard to use. It’s like trying to move a car without putting gas. Cars and airplanes must stop regularly to put gas into them. Your smart phones should also be charged regularly. And no matter how good a machine is, it must stop for a while and be lubricated with oil. And much more so with a man. Wisdom means to stop regularly and take good care of yourself. That is why the wise God has appointed the day of rest.
In order to rest, you must put down your work for a while. Putting your work down is to stretch out both hands and to open your clenched fists. Henri Nouwen wrote a story in his book, “With Open Hands,” about an elderly woman, who was brought into a psychiatric center with her fists clenched, not wanting to open them. In fact, there was a small coin in her hand. It took two people’s strength to try to open her clenched hands. The woman clenched her fist as if she would lose her very self along with the coin. She could be free if she opened her hands, but she didn’t.
What is in our clenched fist? Does it not include hate, frustration, feeling injustice, disappointment, anger, pride, vengeance, jealousy or envy? Open your two clenched hands and lay them down before God. Do not miss true freedom and happiness because of being obsessed with the things that are not very helpful in our lives. One of the things that keep us from rest is being hasty. It is also a false obsession to solve all the problems of the world on our own. When we look at life as a whole, the things we obsess over are trivial things. They are things that cannot be taken when we leave this world. The most important thing is a beautiful relationship. It is love.
A beautiful relationship of love is given through understanding, forgiveness, consideration and respect. In order to cultivate a beautiful relationship of love, we must give each other some margin. You must help each other to have time to rest through margins. Excessive intimacy can be an enemy of intimacy. The Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran encouraged us, in his poem “On Marriage,” by saying, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” Just as trees need to maintain a certain distance in order to grow well, relationships with people are the same. Keeping a certain distance leads us to genuine intimacy. Just like a comma is needed for a beautiful music note, relationships also need some margin. Through that margin, we can become more intimate.
Put down everything for a moment and wait quietly. You will experience serenity in your heart. Do not feel guilty when you rest. Also, please do not judge others who are resting, but rejoice for them. Rest is enjoyment. Rest produces rest. Serenity produces serenity. Peace produces peace. We can live a more abundant life through rest. May the grace and wisdom of rest be with all of you.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.