We all could use a little bit of rest
The story loosely goes that someone once asked noted columnist and proto-conservative William F. Buckley, Jr., how he wrote three columns a week.
He responded that he only wrote when something irritated him, and the marvel was that he only wrote three columns a week.
I took a long ride this beautiful summer’s evening, and as I rode, I was thinking about what to say during our visit.
I was struck with the calm, still air that southern evenings bring as we slip from daylight into dusk, and from sunshine into the cool shadows.
So many things pattered through my head, each wrangling for placement on paper.
My job is to sort through those jungle sounds, find the ones that matter, and talk about them with you.
Certainly, I had things that irritated me, each clamoring for attention, thought, research, and expression. But something just didn’t feel right.
Like a bell that rings off-hour, adding my voice to the already cacophonous chorus of people decrying the myriad of problems—very serious problems, some of them existential threats—seemed unfair, like piling on in football.
This week, I am taking a bit of a different route.
This week, we have no topic at all.
One of the problems with the modern world—oh my! That makes me sound and feel ancient—is that it is loud and fast and chaotic and speeding by at 60 minutes an hour.
It leaves no space for reflection, no break for thought, no time to let feelings filter through our fevered brains only to be settled on the other side as something resembling reason.
Maybe that’s why so many are acting so irrationally.
Maybe it is why we are all so tired.
I am writing this on a Sunday night. Tomorrow is the beginning of an exceptionally busy week—a week filled with problems, fraught with controversy, and fanatically paced. You will most likely read this some time on Wednesday, the mid-point of the week.
By then, what we will all need is a caesura. What, pray tell, is a caesura?
The term is borrowed from poetry, and it means a break, a stopping point, often in the middle of the line. Remember the old rhyme, “Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye”? the break after the word “sixpence” is a caesura.
It allows time for gathering our thoughts, for hearing the words that came before, a small break before we hear more.
Don’t we all need exactly that.
I’ve spoken with people who are so bothered by modern problems that they cannot sleep. Just tonight I heard of an older lady who has not gone out of her house since March for fear of COVID. People are on edge, nervous, jittery about the smallest things. Their worlds have been upended, and it seems that no one has a real handle on why or what to do about it.
From all of that, we need a break.
Where do we turn to find that break? When modernity surrounds us, it is time to return to the ancient boundaries, the wisdom used by our fathers.
Solomon was considered the wisest man of the ancient world. Often overlooked is that he is likely the richest man who ever lived.
He spent his life studying the world around him, observing all that he could, and, among other things, writing wise sayings and recording the wise sayings of others.
He examined the need for rest and for satisfaction with one’s life in Psalm 127. He was a man acquainted with sorrow.
He had grown up at the foot of his father David—the greatest of all of the kings of antiquity—hearing the stories of his battles, his privations, his life spent on the run from King Saul who was after his very life.
He grew up hearing that his parents—David and Bathsheba—had gotten together in the worst possible way, but believing that something good could come out of their initial disasters.
He took a moment to write this wonderful psalm to remind us that unless God builds a house, the house is built in vain.
He reminds us that we should enjoy our family, calling them our reward.
Taking all of that into account, knowing how tough life could be, he calmly looked us in the eye and gently reminded us that “ It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for He giveth his beloved sleep”.
Let’s try to remember that this week. We all need a caesura, a pause, a break, a deep intake of breath. We need to relax.
Maybe turn off the news. Maybe don’t think about our problems for a little while. Maybe remember that there are just things that you can do nothing about.
And while you are remembering that, remember that there is a Someone who is in control.
Remember that that Someone does not expect you to be in control.
And remember that you are His beloved, and He wants to give you rest.