I woke up at 5:13 with these words in my head: “There is inner work, and there is outer work, and both are required for the life of the Kingdom.” A little later the next line came to me: “And there is inner rest, and there is outer rest, and both are equally necessary.”
I don’t think I’ve ever read or heard those lines before, but they struck me as true in the way Scripture is true, and since waking up I’ve been reflecting on them. Don’t expect too much. It’s only 5:44. But here’s what I’ve got so far:
There is a rhythm of work and rest that is both good and necessary. You get up in the morning groaning because you have to go to work, but you look at the clock late in the afternoon and grin because you get to go home. If it were all work and no rest you would soon die of exhaustion. If it were all rest and no work you would soon die of boredom.
In the life of the Kingdom, there also seems to be a rhythm of inner work and outer work that is both good and necessary. Since September 9, 2012, I’ve been busy trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. But I’ve also been learning that if that outer work is not balanced with inner work I can easily forget why I’m doing what I’m doing. I can become a tireless “doer of good deeds” without coming one step closer to the Kingdom. So I need to take time to pray, to read, to think, to listen, and to learn.
But the rhythm of rest and work also applies to the inner and outer life. In the same way my body can become worn out by work my heart, mind, and soul can become worn out. I need to have hours and sometimes even days at a time when I am not working to develop my inner life but simply resting in the grace of God. I need to give myself permission to go for a long walk in the woods, or watch an old movie on television, without feeling I have let go of the rope on which the Kingdom will come.
Today is not one of those days. I’ve got a whole sermon to write before this day is over. But the coffee is good and hot and strong and I’m feeling energized for the work ahead. I’m grinning, not groaning, but it’s partly because on Thursday I took the time I needed to rest. I gave not only my body the day off, I also gave my heart and soul and mind a break. Maybe that’s why I’m waking up this morning with fresh thoughts bubbling up inside my brain: maybe it’s rested and ready for what comes next, just as my heart and soul and strength are rested.
And maybe this is how life in the Kingdom is supposed to be.