A Theology of Stopping




For the past few months, I’ve been thinking and reading about a theology of stopping. So often a lot of the advertising on social media, in our churches, and in the workplace is about moving forward, new activities, new ideas, and initiatives. I think moving is good, in fact, I believe movement is essential. But when I look toward the Psalms, particularly Psalm 1, a tree planted by still waters doesn’t move, it grows.

As part of my process, I’ve been thinking a bit about the Benedictine cycles of the Daily Office (also known as hourly prayer). In most traditions, there are certain times of day when we pause to pray. In most of the Evangelical circles we are familiar with, we (are encouraged to) pray when we wake, at meal times, and often feel guilty for falling asleep for evening prayer. I take great comfort in the Gospel story of fellow disciples falling asleep even through Christ invites them to watch and pray.

I’m not sure if it is the weather change or the Spirit of God or indigestion, but I’ve been waking up a lot in the middle of the night recently. That sort of wide awake that makes your stir in bed. I’ve come to find this waking as a beautiful time of prayer and petition. I was surprised when I recently learned that in some Benedictine traditions, the monks wake at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning to pray over the sleeping world. They awaken to pray for those who are resting, recovering, and dreaming. For the last few nights, I feel like I’ve joined them in spirit.

This is a theology of stopping.

Some of my favorite spiritual leaders are champions of slowing and stopping. Heroes of rest and recovery. I’ve been trying to learn what it means to stop striving and moving and just stop and be. Have you had the chance to assess your soul lately? I think if the enemy is at work in the world the greatest tactic it has is keeping us busy, unsettled, distracted, and on the move.

I wonder what it would look like for more of our spiritual leaders began to champion restfulness. I wonder what it would look like for our spiritual leaders to use their sleepless nights to pray for sleep and rest for those they serve. I am probably not a great professor for saying this but each semester, and often during mid-terms and finals, I would encourage students to sleep rather than stay up late working on my homework assignments. While sure, time and energy management are important, sleep and rest are essential.

While I hope to return to a regular sleeping pattern soon (which likely will happen as I am really sensitive to weather), I have also been praying for you. I believe in stopping. I believe in slowing. I believe in being planted by streams of water, of being invited to rest in green pastures. And I pray you will slow, I pray you will stop, I pray you will take root, bloom and flourish in this season.