Is downtime something I need or a detour I have to endure? Is it in the loving plan of God for me at times or a device of the devil to spoil my well-planned journey?
“He [God] makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters” declares David in Psalm 23. That sounds too much like downtime.
When I am laid aside, benched, put on the shelf, it doesn't seem to be a good thing. I am too much out of the loop. Life is passing me by. If the downtime persists for a long time, I begin to feel like a has-been. If the “green pastures” turn out to be lying down between white sheets at home or in a hospital bed, lying still, that is not the kind of “still waters” that I like.
Apparently God looks at it differently. If I don't take enough time to rest in Him, wait quietly on Him, to reflect on His goodness and blessings, He may plan an interval of “green (or white) pastures” to accomplish His purpose of gradually transforming me into the image of His Son—which is His goal for me. Father knows best, and I trust Him.
The Psalm continues, “He restores my soul.” That is obviously God's intention for all that lying down and the still waters. Too often I live a churning, whitewater rapids kind of life of non-stop activity, albeit I think I am doing the work of the Lord. In contrast, “still waters” reminds me of a cool, clear mountain lake without a ripple where I can almost see my reflection. Yes, a place of true reflection on what life is all about and how fragile, temporary, yet precious it is.
With the summit season often, may I say usually, comes the diminishing of health and strength. Hospital stays for illness or surgical adventures are common, as is being bedridden, shut-in, or simply in retirement. There are many kinds of downtimes.
Nevertheless, they are also rest and restoration times. I was accustomed to driving long distances in my somewhat younger, active days in ministry. I was inclined to push myself to make time. I stopped infrequently and usually skipped the exits marked “Rest Area.” They seemed to be a waste of time and I felt they would slow me down. I finally learned the hard way from my driving experiences that “Rest Area Ahead” is not a casual, optional suggestion. It is an indispensable invitation not only physically but spiritually when God plans some downtime for me.
It may take some downtime for me to reach a point where the Lord can restore my soul and rejuvenate me, provide me with a second wind to go on renewed for the rest of the way Home. So I shouldn't resist it, if God has planned that in His agenda for my late season journey. I should welcome His provision to rest in Him until He accomplishes His purpose for the downtime.
I came across a meaningful poem by Author Unknown which could well have been titled,
I NEEDED THE DOWNTIME
I needed the quiet, so God took me aside
into the shadows where we could confide,
away from the bustle, where all the day long
I hurried and worried, active and strong.
I needed the quiet, though at first I rebelled,
but gently, so gently, the cross He upheld,
and whispered so sweetly of spiritual things.
While weakened in body, my spirit took wings
to heights never dreamed of in my active day.
He loved me so greatly He drew me away.
I needed the quiet; no prison my bed,
but a beautiful valley of blessing instead,
a place to grow richer, in Jesus to hide.
I needed the quiet, so He took me aside.