In support of a rest

Recently I took time out of a holiday to finish preparing a conference paper. At the same time I could see a colleague becoming more stressed with the pressure of their work load, and read an article by the Vice Chancellor of a large British university, in which he admitted that university staff could not be expected to absorb any more work.

Many PhD students are under similar pressures: they feel unable to find enough time to prepare adequately for leading seminars and teaching, whilst juggling the competing demands of publishing and writing their thesis. Many Christian postgrads also take on responsibilities within their churches and graduate groups. Within this mix they are grappling with how to be faithful to Jesus as lord of the cosmos in their discipline.

How do principles of rest, such as the sabbath and taking our burdens to Christ, impact on our academic lives and attitudes to rest? How do they impinge upon our expectations of people who follow Jesus, and of those who don’t?

Could our foundational view of Jesus’ lordship over every discipline, and his love of his creation, speak to our view of rest in relation to our academic work?

This view would not remove the hard work of understanding his creation, nor remove the difficulties we face. Nor would it mean that we are less busy overnight (or that we will take on only what in our creaturely nature we can do!). It certainly wouldn’t mean that my conference paper would write itself.

But, one encouragement is that as we do so we are working towards Christ’s purposes for creation. That we are bringing our work, even our theories, to Christ to meet his character, the only way these thoughts can be at rest. Just as in God’s common grace many of our atheist and deist colleagues do have genuine insights that work in creation for its good. It is likely to be with faltering steps, but steps that are encouraged to return at any time.

I have a niggling feeling that Christian postgraduate groups could play a role in encouraging a Christ centred, creation affirming view of rest for everyone, including our academic work, that might serve to bring blessing to each other. Should these groups also be known for supporting rest in the wider academic society?

Comments

Thanks so much for these reflections Richard. They ring true for me. Can we learn anything from the biblical practice of gleaning (Deut 24:19)? This is good news for both the owner and the gleaner. The owner has to relax more and the gleaner gets to benefit from this relaxation! Somehow faithfulness to God in this gleaning activity blesses both parties. How might this biblical theme impact the academic life? Can cooperation between Christian academics help to liberate our stressful lives? Just a few thoughts!

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