Actual Food — Taking Breaks
Sustenance for The Spirit
When did the concept of “taking a break” begin? Historically speaking, it’s hard to imagine cavemen (per se) standing around the water cooler drinking coffee mid-morning, or ancient warriors stopping for a nap in the midst of battle, but at some point, mankind realized a need to stop what they were doing to keep doing their best. An afternoon siesta, or some version, is not only acceptable, but expected in many cultures, and not in just one or two isolated spots of geography. We have those moments when, it’s something we just know…that we need a break…whether or not we actually take one. Maybe it’s a DNA thing, or maybe it’s a brain thing, or maybe it’s culturally driven; or, maybe it’s a spirit thing. Without breaks, there would be no vacations, no naps, no Sunday afternoon drives, no retirement, and Google might not have inserted sleep pods into their workspaces. The pandemic provided many of us with a forced break; in fact, it was a worldwide break, which is quite an anomaly. There were benefits, and struggles as well. Often, much can be learned by simply taking a break, a time to reflect and contemplate.
There are also times when you feel driven to do something a little differently, shake things up as it were. Mark Batterson, author and pastor, uses the phrase, “requisite variety.” What this phrase means to me is that as humans, we need change to re-energize, learn and grow, much like taking a break. If we continue at the same pace, in the same location, doing the same things the same way for too long, we lose our sense of purpose and the drive to continue.
Now, I am a person of routine and can be almost ritualistic about certain aspects of my life, but I also know that when I need a burst of motivation and energy, all I need to do is make some changes to whatever it is I am bored with. I usually discover an invigorated spirit that I didn’t know was there. I can only speak for myself, but my observation is that others often find themselves in the same patterns. When we need a “pick me up,” we can change direction or routine. When I need to improve something like my prayer life, I usually need to take a closer look at my routines and either add or alter a pocket of time in my day. But, I must admit, this is also a continual struggle. The specific when, where and how to make a “break” is tricky, and although I seem to be searching for the perfect, the truth is probably closer to what seems to work well for now. In other words, we find ourselves in an incongruity of the perfect routine being a willingness to change things up.
We know that for reasons of health, our bodies need breaks to recover, which is why sleep at night is so important. And, a good break does not have to happen on a sandy beach. When going through the middle years in our culture, between advancing a career, being involved in the lives of immediate family and maintaining some semblance of social connection, breaks have to blend into the hurried mess. They can be there, but may not be as pronounced. As life changes, the need to take breaks doesn’t go away, but the shape they take might be imaginative and more unusual than usual. In fact, sometimes the more we don’t think there’s any way we can take a break, the more we need one, and necessity will often create one over which we have little or no control.
Jesus took breaks. If you’ve ever read a spiritual self-help book related to stress management, you probably read about the times Jesus pulled away from the crowd and prayed or rested. He did provide an example of break time, but one of the things Jesus did was to shake things up, breaking up the norm. His ministry was full of examples where he didn’t do what people thought he might do. He valued a woman who anointed him with oil, a woman His disciples were “bothering,” implying some embarrassment on their part (Matthew 26:6–13). He had the children come to Him instead of being sent away as His disciples urged (Mark 10:13–16). Jesus healed on the Sabbath, which galled a synagogue ruler (Luke 13:10–17). As He went about His Father’s business, Jesus gave energy and support to people who needed renewal and value. In a way, this was “requisite variety,” the different approach needed at that time and place, to bring others into the redemptive plan God had laid out. It was a break from the expected, which caused new vision on earth.
But of course, Jesus himself, the human Jesus, needed breaks along the way, and he took them. As His ministry began, Jesus was baptized, and then spent forty days fasting and undergoing personal, face to face temptations with Satan in the desert. This may not sound much like a break, and it was far from a spa day, but this was where Jesus built up strength that would be needed in the years of ministry ahead. Ministry is 24/7, and it is not for the weak or wobbly. Human Jesus learned and grew in that forty day desert period, much more than he would have in constant tranquility.
In Mark 1:35 we read what I feel was representative of regular breaks Jesus took during His ministry, “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.” This is a great model for us, but even Jesus probably had to vary these moments to fit His circumstances. The point is that he needed to make time to be alone and pray, and we find these breaks described in scripture for us to take note. In Mark 4:35–41 and Mark 6:45–46, Jesus leaves or dismisses the crowd, pulling away to be alone or with His disciples. In both examples, Jesus uses a boat. In the first instance, he fell asleep and then awoke to a storm, which he then calmed; and in the second, He prayed on a mountaintop and then walked on water to the boat, toward some pretty amazed disciples.
It sounds like Jesus took a break however he could see the means (boat) and opportunity (isolated himself) to do so. Each time, His break is followed with a miraculous act, suggestive of renewed energy, spirit and power. As Jesus approached the end of His ministry, He goes to a garden called Gethsemane to pray. He becomes overcome by emotion and selects three of His apostles, to go into the garden even further and pray more. In Mark 14:35 we read, “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.” He finishes the next verse accepting “God’s will be done,” but one can only imagine the intensity of feeling Jesus was experiencing. He had been living and doing ministry every minute of every day for many months, except for the odd moments he could take brief breaks, and He found Himself spent as He faced what only He knew lie ahead. Just a few verses later, Jesus was arrested, then eventually tried, executed and raised in a resurrection never duplicated, the ultimate break.
As I reflect on the why of breaks, what makes them so necessary, I arrive at a realization that they help get us through life on earth. The big break is ahead in glory. It’s worth it to find the boat when we need it. Get away from the crowd. Change direction a bit. Adjust a routine. Do what it takes to become a renewed version with greater purpose and design.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2, NIV)
Be empowered to take a break, and have a great day!