As I write these words, I am about to begin a week of vacation. Other than a couple of short trips, I don’t really have anything planned, so I’m looking forward to having some time to catch up on chores at home and, most of all, having time to do nothing much at all.
That second goal — doing nothing — will probably be the harder one for me to accomplish. I’m so used to having my time filled every day, that slowing down is definitely going to be a challenge. Even on vacation, there is this lingering sense that I should be doing something — something active, something enriching, something productive. I need to remind myself, as I often remind others, that rest is essential. Taking time away is restorative. “Just doing nothing” makes space for renewal, imagination, and unexpected creativity.
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we will hear how Jesus named Simon Peter as the rock on which he will build his church. He even gives him a new name — Petros (meaning “rock”) — to confirm this identity. I wonder how Peter must have felt in the moment when Jesus assigned him to this extraordinary task. Shocked? Proud? Afraid? All of the above? How would you have felt?
From what we know about Peter, he seems to have been a do-er, a natural leader, and also a bit impulsive and headstrong. Peter was often the first in the group to speak. He was the one who wanted to walk on water and build dwellings on the mountaintop, and, as we hear this week, the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. In today’s world, I suspect Peter would have been a model of productive leadership - earnest, impetuous, bold, outspoken, and a little bit reckless. When he went a bit too far, Jesus often had to reel him back in and remind him of what all this work was really about.
Jesus’ leadership model was a bit different. He worked hard, he gave of himself, and he also regularly and intentionally took time away. He knew that those times of prayer, rest and restoration were vital to his continuing ministry. In a culture that prioritizes constant productivity, this is a helpful reminder.
Taking time away to “do nothing” is productive in a countercultural way. It can help us roll through life’s challenges a bit more smoothly, a bit more easily. Author Rebecca Solnit has written, “pause, stoppage, inaction, inattention can all be wildly generative, and if they’re not that might be its own kind of fruitful that cannot be measured.” She calls it “the holiness of respite.” The Bible calls it “sabbath,” and it is, in fact, what God has commanded us to do. May each of you be blessed with times of rest and restoration as summer draws to a close.