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The Lifestyle of Jesus

By Michael Roop

Patrick Leigh Fermor couldn’t understand what was happening to his body. The acclaimed British travel writer was visiting a monastery in the mid 1950s, and shortly into his silent stay, he found an unexpected effect of his visit: he couldn’t stay awake. Despite having nothing to do and no one with whom to converse, Fermor came to a place where he slept more than half his day away. In fact, for a couple days, eating meals and attending three services each day “were almost [his] only lucid moments.”

Upon reflection, he began to understand what had happened. After a few days with nothing to distract him, nothing to busy himself, “the tremendous accumulation of tiredness...broke loose and swamped everything.” The dam of busyness, distractions, and noise finally broke, and the waters of exhaustion washed over him. We are embodied creatures after all, so an exhausted soul will always manifest itself in an tired body.

Fermor suspects, and I agree, that this deep weariness is “the common property” of humanity. And I doubt I need to defend the notion that this exhaustion has grown exponentially in the digital revolution of the last ten years. And yet, for all the writing and research on work-life balance, screen time, and sleep habits, it seems apparent that we aren’t making any progress on this rapid decline.

Which leads me to this uncomfortable question: what if this soul-level, existential exhaustion is less an issue with blue light, mattress quality, and a tumultuous cultural moment, and more an issue of the kind of person we’re being formed into by our common practices? What if the economic engine of our day is churning out deeply fatigued shells of the humans we were created to be? What if, without any conscious intervention, we are already on a course to the weary and heavily burdened life?

There’s good news. It was to just such people that Jesus one day said, “Take my yoke upon you...and you will find rest for your souls.” Imagine it - rest for your soul. Not just your body. Not just a day off, the silencing of notifications, or sleeping in a bit. Imagine being rested, refreshed, and restored right down to the core of your being. This is the invitation of the light and easy yoke.

But there’s an important catch, one well articulated by John Mark Comer, a pastor and author who has done a lot of thinking, failing, and learning in this area. In his great book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, he puts it this way: “If you want to experience the life [that Jesus promises], you have to adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.” In other words, we aren’t going to believe our way into soul restoration. That expectation is the post-enlightenment hubris that got us here.

So for several months last year, I read the gospels with an eye not for the teachings, parables, miracles, or theological fulfillment of Jesus, but for the aspects of His day-to-day life. And as I did, four themes emerged. For the month of January, I will share my journaling on these themes, with some practical helps on how to pursue a life lived in the yoke. I do so as a fellow exile and journeyman, not from a place of expertise but exhaustion, from a deeply felt sense that something needs to change.

“Whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:10-11).

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