I enjoy reading biographies. Currently I'm reading about one of the towering figures of the twentieth century: Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill. I’m early in the story of this prolific artist, author, poet, warrior, statesman and world leader - and I’ve already been disrupted by the way he lived his life.
When asked, to what he attributed his success in life, without pause of hesitation, Churchill replied: “Conservation of energy. Never stand up when you can sit down, and never sit down when you can lie down.*
Conservation of energy? Never standing when you can sit? Huh….?
Churchill's whole life speaks of an unflappable vigor/spirit, an undiminished energy and yet he’s described as having “the gift of taking short naps when time permitted… when possible, he spent his mornings in bed, telephoning, dictating and receiving visitors”.*
The “gift” of taking naps?
The immediate thought racing through my head is, “Yes!!! I’ve found a worthy mentor… someone who gets me and can call me to the next level! Yes!!!"
But, I’m not convinced my initial take away is the take away the Author and Perfector of my faith intends for me.
I continue to read of Churchill’s life but return back to this “Conservation of energy” thing. I’m not sure why but I’m a bit muddled by it? Disrupted?
What are you saying to me God?
Perhaps I ought to pass Churchill’s quote on to a couple of my knuckle-headed-Type “A”-driven buddies. Wouldn’t it be a gift of insight and encouragement to them to know that the fruitfulness, the impact and the accomplishment they press for every day, 24/7 may not necessitate a frenzied, multi- tasking, always “on”, margin-less life style? I mean after all, Jesus’ life was never feverish; his life had a rhythm that allowed for time with people. He could spend hours talking to one person, such as the Samaritan woman at the well. His life showed a wonderful balance, a sense of pace, a poise that resulted in the world being flipped upside down. He conserved energy and effected history as no other!
I can see my mate's smiling faces as I exhort them to less time at the desk and more time in bed, to frequent naps and to create margins in their life… for them to be more like Churchill and Jesus!
At about the moment I’m firmly committed to confront my pals with a clarion call to “take it down a notch”, The Wonderful Counselor shifts the focus from them to me. My initial sense of validation is quickly deflated. That “ Hey, I’m a lot like Churchill (and Jesus)… I’ve got this whole conserving energy thing down- napping, mornings in bed, sitting around..." - is confronted with the question: “Conserving energy for what?”
What am I conserving my energy for?
This sweet short life is moving by quickly. I’m under the Big Top; at bat in the seventh game of the World Series; I’m in Bastogne and the enemy has launched a surprise winter offensive in the Ardennes; I’m living in a Larger Story where the hearts and lives of millions are deadened and need the Message of liberation. My wife, children, grandkids, friends and neighbors need me to be present and accounted for! This is not the time for extended naps!
I think Churchill’s life was ordered by something larger than “chillin”… Christ’s pace also included exhausting periods of work, day after day of giving himself to others (Mark 1:32-34). On one occasion late into the evening, totally spent from ministry his disciples thought he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).
Mellow is one thing, layed back is okay for periods, rest is good; we all need breaks from the battles we face but sitting on the sidelines, missing the action, living is a self-protective disengagement is not the life I want.
I want Christ’s life. I want his pace and poise… knowing when to pull away from the “crowds” and the shore to get a break and take a nap. I want, and at times, need a kick in the butt to enter the fray.
I will protect my margins, those sacred periods of rest and renewal… and I want to give it all, when, where and how God wants me to. I want to conserve energy so that I can make the mark I am meant to.
So, when do we nap and when do we bust our butts?
Mark’s account of Jesus’ crowded day gives a clue, “…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.” (1:35). Christ waited for his Father’s instructions and the strength to follow them. He discerned the Father’s will day by day in a life of prayer… he walked with God.
I long to walk with God, to sit with God... and, in limited amounts, nap with God!
- Craig McConnell
* Churchill by Paul Johnson, Viking Penguin, 2009, page 5.