In many medical circles the pace at which your heart rate returns to a normal level after intense exercise is a key measure of your fitness. Specifically, the experts define it this way:
“The faster your heart rate recovers – or slows down – the fitter and healthier your heart.”
An ability to rest and recover is as telling as the ability to explode into strenuous activity. In this case, how fast we can slow down is as important as how fast we can go.
I’ve grown increasingly aware of the way that this same phenomenon exists in my spiritual journey as well. Frankly, I’ve been guilty of saying that when I get away from the press of daily activity it can take up to a week to wind down. I’ve extolled the virtues of a two-week vacation because the first week is spent just sifting through the clutter and anxiety of my preoccupied heart and mind.
No athlete would expect that intense physical activity would take hours or days to recover from. In fact, the monitoring of a pulse rate is calculated by comparing your heart rate just two minutes after concluding physical activity. Two minutes.
I don’t find much in the Bible account of the life of Jesus that talks about two-week vacations. I have yet to find a red letter section in my Bible where Jesus says that it took Him a week to unwind from the challenges of the road, the sick, the skeptics, the critics, the classroom, before He could really settle into a rhythm with His Father.
In fact, Jesus had an incredibly short recovery time.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. ~ Matthew 14:13-14 (ESV)
Jesus, on hearing the news of the cruel death of John the Baptist stole away for some quiet time. He needed space. He needed a desolate place by Himself. With His Father.
He had just a short time, and then the demands of ministry and expectation and pain and promise burst on the scene… but for Jesus, hours with His Father were enough to return the pulse rate of His soul to normal.
Jesus could recover in a few intentional moments. He converted select and often abbreviated passages of time into rest stops; into recovery zones.
The fitness of Jesus’ soul made a return to equilibrium both imperative and efficient; and it forces me to wonder – have I made too much room for the clutter and chaos of my life? Have I expected too little of my personal Sabbath?
Two minutes. Can I find rest in a matter of moments with Jesus, or have I made excuses for the mess in my life that strangles my spiritual breathing?
I’m certainly not condemning vacations or extended getaways, but I also realize that I need to become much better at finding short times of recovery. Times of Sabbath. Times of Selah.
Often, the health of my soul can be measured by how quickly I recover – to forgive, to find compassion, to feel regret, to extend grace, to show love, to extinguish fear, to exhibit courage…