At the end of the work of creating, God doesn’t quit creating, but simply stops that particular work as told in the creation myths. It is something akin to the sound of the last note of the last song fading into the silence that allow for the encore. We need to remember that rest is not only a noun, it is a verb. Resting is an activity and it is indeed a creative activity. Resting becomes the active space where our still-speaking God can be heard. The voice powerful enough to speak light into being is powerful enough to echo through the eons down to today. Yet that voice is sometimes present only in a whisper so it is wise for us to rest in order to hear.
When we rest, we are not without energy. In resting we have potential energy as opposed to the kinetic energy of motion. There are times when great and powerful things are ready to spring up and they require a solid and still foundation. Coming as it does as the last of the 6 waves of creativity (dreaming, hovering, risking, listening, reintegrating and resting) it is not only the place from which the creation is observed, experienced and enjoyed, but it is also the place from which the next dreaming launches. Cycles of activity without rest are doomed. Cycles that are marked by rest find renewal essential to continue to be creative.
Sometimes the place of rest is the place where we pass the baton to the next creators. At the end of the work day, we go home to rest while the well-rested next shift takes over. If we learned well the lessons of reintegration then we know that our talent and creation does not belong to ourselves individually but to the whole. Sometimes our creative efforts are simply the efforts of the day shift that the night shift will build upon. This is a particularly vital, but hard to learn, lesson for churches. The current generational shift in the practice of being church seems to be a bit rocky at the moment, but with trust that God is still active while resting we can mean what we pray when we seek God’s will not our own.
The rock band U2 provided a powerful example of rest being the place for handing off the creating to the next shift. A few years ago on one of their tours they made it their practice to invite a fan on stage to play the simple chords of their song “40.” One by one, each band member would stop performing and silently exit the stage until all that was left was the lone fan leading the crowd in the repeated line “how long will we sing this song?” Surely the humorous side of those lyrics was not lost on the crowd, but hopefully the poignant side lingered as well.
In U2 By U2, the band’s guitarist, The Edge tells this story about the song: “So then we had this slightly unusual piece of music and we said, ‘OK, what are we going to do with it?’ Bono said, ‘Let’s do a psalm.’ Opened up the bible and found Psalm 40. ‘This is it. Let’s do it.’ And within forty minutes we had worked out the last few elements for the tune, Bono had sung it, and we mixed it. And literally, after finishing the mix, we walked out through the door and the next band walked in.”
The words of the psalm speak of longing for God to come and restore us, putting a new song in our mouths. Just how long will we sing this (old) song? When will we do the “active resting” of walking out of the door so the next band can walk in? It is never time to quit singing, but maybe it is time to stop this song so that the silence can call forth the encore…perhaps one we don’t expect.
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA He blogs about the intersection of spirituality and society at CultureDove.blogspot.com and the intersection of spirituality and ornithology at https://birdparables.blogspot.com