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Be still

By Scott Guyatt, Synod Project Officer

In this new year, as we look forward with faith for a new season, we remain energised by the possibilities of Renewal.  We seek a deep and powerful renewal that encompasses reflection, recognition and restoration, one that challenges us to resurrection and re-affirmation, that may ask us to repent or to reconcile, and that calls us to re-align, reimagine and rejoice.  Join with us as we share reflections from across the life of the church to consider what renewal can be for us as individuals and as the body of the Christ.

A new year can bring a sense of obligation to hurry onwards, but there is also a wonderful opportunity to take a moment. Let us pause to reflect, to look around and look within. Let us be still and know…

When you’re out on long-distance walks in the wilderness, there’s a rhythm to what happens. One of the rhythms I have come to appreciate is when you stop for a rest. Almost every time, the same pattern is followed.

First, the heavy backpacks are shrugged off, relieving tired muscles of the extra burden.

Second, the hikers look for a place to sit and rest. A rock, a log, a patch of grass. Anything to get weight off the feet and overworked legs.

Third, the food comes out. Maybe it’s a sandwich for lunch, some trail mix, or a piece of fruit. Snacks might be passed around the group too, sharing the meal with one another. We are sustained as we share food and drink.

And then, fourth, the conversation flows. Usually about the last section of the hike – How about that creek we crossed? What about when Jim stumbled and nearly fell? Have you ever seen such beautiful flowers? I’ve never had to work so hard to get up a climb! Do you reckon that was a brown snake? The stories flow, contemplating the shared experience of the hike.

Fifth, there’s an opportunity to repair any damage: patch up blisters, redistribute pack weight for better balance, and re-apply sunscreen or insect repellent. These are the tasks of preparation.

And usually, just before the packs are hefted again, the final step is to consult the map or trail guide – working out what the next challenges are, planning a route, figuring out how much further to the next rest stop or campsite. This prepares us to navigate the next stage of the walk.

It’s a rhythm that nearly every walking group follows. Each action (even if we don’t follow quite the same sequence) has purpose: rest, sustenance, contemplation, repair, and planning.

Life can be a little similar. Opportunities to pause with purpose are precious and we’re wise to make the most of them. Those same tasks that bushwalkers face can be addressed by us (as individuals or in community): rest, sustenance, contemplation, repair, and planning..

The temptation, particularly in busy times, can be to charge on from one experience to the next, from one challenge to the next, from one opportunity to the next, without taking the time to pause with purpose.

And yet, scripture is filled with encouragement (and examples) to rest. Jesus on more than one occasion retreats to a quiet place after challenging days of teaching and healing. The disciples are sent out on mission and then retreat together afterwards to reflect on what they experienced (Mark 6:30-32). We’re reminded to come, bring our heavy burdens and weary bodies and rest in God’s presence.

Rest, sustenance, contemplation, repair, and planning. They’re tasks for bushwalkers, as for all of us. They’re tasks for us as individuals, and for us in community. They are life rhythms repeated again, and again, and again. I don’t think it’s stretching things too far to notice that God has shaped us to need these moments, these rhythms, these opportunities to pause and ready ourselves for what comes next.

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