As a sophomore fighting to keep up at an Ivy League university after a blue collar high school education, I was struggling to find time for reading the Bible. I had not been admitted to Cornell as a regular freshman because I was not good enough to get accepted. Instead, I had been admitted for January admission off the waitlist along with a handful of other “second rate” applicants. I got into Cornell by the skin of my teeth. So, I was working hard to fit in among a class of better prepared kids from prestigious high schools around the world. Class work was hard and on top of that I had to work 20 hours a week to help pay for an education that my parents couldn’t possibly afford. So that was my excuse for why I didn’t have time to read the Bible.
The trouble was that the more I learned about God, the more I wanted to read the Bible and found myself hungering for it. “As the dear thirsts for the water” the Psalmist says. But my schedule just didn’t allow for it, or so I thought. That is, until I sprained my knee in a weekend game of touch football. As I prepared to leave the ER, the doctor explained that I must ice my leg twice a day for 20 minutes, once in the morning and once in the evening. I was motivated to get my leg back in shape, so I was absolutely willing to do exactly as he said.
The first time I sat down to ice my knee, I thought to myself, “This sucks. What am I supposed to do for the next 20 minutes while I’m stuck here.” Then it occurred to me that I could read the Bible. So every time I iced my leg, I read the Word of God. Amazingly, my life didn’t fall apart. My work got done, my studying got done, I had fun with my friends, and my grades didn’t suffer. As my leg healed, I remember thinking that it was a shame I wouldn’t have time to read once the icing was no longer required. I actually thought that! But thankfully, I also realized the craziness of that conclusion. This accident had shown me that I had always had the time, I just wasn’t prioritizing it effectively. That lesson stuck with me. If I didn't give myself a break, my self would take one from me.
Think about it. Don't you find it to be true in your life? If you push too hard, your body pushes back. You work long hours on end, and you get sick. You run too many miles to prep for the marathon and you get an injury. You rush to catch the ferry and you miss it. At least that's what happens to me. Your body was designed by God to have breaks. That's why we sleep. That's why we take a Sabbath day of rest. That's why you should take a vacation. Seriously, I'm talking to YOU (you know who you are, you haven't take a REAL vacation for years.).
I've tried to really live by this mantra and it's helped me and my family in two ways. First, it helps us to slow down and take time the "smell the roses" along the way. (SIde note, the next time you see roses, take a moment and smell them; you won't regret it.) We will regularly choose to do something fun in the middle of work as a way to take a break. Or, sometimes we need to to just stop and do nothing in the middle of a lot of work and play to give ourselves a break.
Second, it has given us a different perspective when something goes wrong. Rather than say, "This is so unfair, why is this happening to me?" we look back and ask, "Were we going to fast? How could we have given ourselves a break earlier?" I think I've become good enough at this that some people must think I'm a slacker. Sometimes I worry about it, but then I say to myself, "Self, it's time for a break."
PS. I have to give credit to Mr. Sam Moyle, one of my favorite high school teachers, for regularly saying, "So I said to myself, 'Self'..." I love saying that and it partially inspired this mantra.
QUESTION: When was the last time you DIDN'T take a break and paid for it when something when wrong? Tell me about a time you DID take a break and it was just what the doctor ordered?