I recently found myself at a retreat center out in the middle of nowhere South Carolina, which if you aren't familiar is really out in the middle of nowhere ... we do that pretty good 'round here. There was a nearby set off church bells that could be heard for miles at the retreat center (if you didn't know, sound travels those sorts of distances when you are nowhere), and they played beautifully every hour.
When I first heard them I quickly dismissed them as a bit annoying and disruptive to whatever I was saying or thinking in the moment. Then the second and third time I heard them it made me pause and realize how long it had been since I heard church bells (can you remember the last time you heard them?). I don't think I had heard church bells since I was a young boy in the middle of nowhere North Florida (perhaps church bells have a magnetic like calling to the places that are in the middle of nowhere?). It reminded me of my youth, and an age gone by, one that I imagine my one year old boy will never grow up to know. I suppose you can't stop change.
The melody that these bells made and the ensuing feeling it produced inside of me was truly surprising. I felt a peace and tranquility that I rarely do anymore these days, and I thought of how much slower life was in ages past. Then I thought of the biblical principle of Sabbath and Jesus' words that, "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath". The Sabbath was made for man ... that's right! God in his infinite and unsearchable wisdom knew that this peace and tranquility that I was feeling from some melodious bells was something that I needed. And oh how desperately people are searching for some sense of peace. Peace is not something that can simply be bought by the rich and famous, but something that is needed by each human. Something that I know in my modern western context is more and more difficult to come by.
So my encouragement to all of us in 2017 is to heed Jesus' words (all of them preferably) about the principles of the Sabbath, and prioritize making ways for our souls, minds, and bodies to rest this year. Godly rest is not only leisure, but is something that is revitalizing and refreshing, something that is restorative. Find ways, be creative, and prioritize for yourself (and for your family) to rest in the Lord this year, he says, "Be still and know that I am God." (Ps 46:10)