Relax! Be Yourself

Relax! Be Yourself

Relax: Be Yourself!

I didn’t know what it meant… And that was the problem.

Seems that I was regularly in a hurry, attempting to accomplish too many objectives, and taking little time to just “be”. In fact, the case could be made that I had no idea how to do that anyway. You see, from the time I was four, my parents ran a family restaurant—and that meant long hours, cleaning, cooking, serving, taking cash, purchasing product, stocking the fridge, press repeat, and multiply by seven days a week.

Leisure was unusual. My family took two vacations during my entire childhood, and both were about a week—so that would be about two weeks off in 21 years.

Are you getting the picture?

I did learn to work in that environment, and that was a good thing. Yet the side effect was that I didn’t know how not to work! My family regularly spent our time trying to be and do things to please someone else, and rarely spent the time learning to enjoy what made our own hearts sing.

“Relax” was a nice word with no meaning. You might as well have said it in Klingon!

Of course, that affected everything…

Now the Bible teaches us to practice rhythms in life, to include such things as faith, prayer, labor and rest. It is not by accident that the Ten Commandments contain a direct Word from God Himself, and that this was built into the “top ten”. It is also no accident that this command is the longest and most involved—and that whole sections of the Hebrew Bible speak of how to uphold the principle that everything and everyone (modeled by God Himself) should just STOP!

Now God did that, not as a function of exhaustion! He was not worn out by creating the earth! When it says “God rested on the seventh day…” it refers to God the Creator taking time to simply gaze back at His labor with satisfaction, and to relish the sense of rest from labor. God Himself was “doing nothing” on the seventh day. He also did everything, and practiced “being satisfied” enough to rest content!

God knows who He is—and He has nothing to prove. He labored from a place of contented self-awareness—and that is called “Rest”; then He rested from His labor—and that is the image of God that He stamped into the DNA of what it means to be human!

I had no clue—because I didn’t know who I was, apart from being someone who needed to work.

            Yet there was a defining moment—a time when it all seemed to come together.

I found myself elected to serve on a national board that met four times a year for two full working days. Now the organization was a church renewal group, and this meant that it ran on a shoestring… So each of us on that board would do our part to keep the costs down.

There were two of us who flew in from Western Canada, and we were becoming friends. The flight from Edmonton to Toronto was usually about 3.5 hours, and one had to pick a flight that would work. For the two of us it meant flying in the day before. To save expenses, the two of us would book a room with two queen beds and split the costs.  

Now on the first day, we would begin at 10:00 am. That gave those who were close by time to drive in, and for those of us from different regions, a chance to adjust to the time zone, get a bite and prep for the meetings.

Well, it was 8:00 am, (6:00 in my province) and Bob and I were getting up to get ready for the meeting. I had slept well and was just sitting up.

Bob was looking dishevelled.

It was plain he had not had a decent rest. This led to the defining moment.

Bob had not yet even said so much as “good morning.” He put his feet on the floor, stared me right in the eyes, and locked them there. Then he spoke in an overly loud, caustically sarcastic, exaggerated tone, with a silly grin smearing across an eye-sparkled face that was making a valiant effort to appear stern (a furrowed brow and a silly grin don’t mix well). The tone of his voice requires large caps and bold italics to make the point (Hear "loud" when it is in bold caps). He said this (note that he hadn’t even said “Hello” yet):


Remember, my brain was in a groggy estate, due to the travel, the two hour jet lag, and the ordinary process of getting up—and I had not yet quite managed to shake off the dopiness of the early morning after sleep. Looking at him, I found myself asking where this was coming from.

“Bob,” I said, “Is there a reason why you are staring at me, and talking this way first thing in the morning, just two hours before our business meeting?”

“David,” he said, “Last night we landed in TO, drove here and decided to get to bed early—You laid down on that bed, and I laid down on this one. And I couldn’t get to sleep. About 1:00 in the morning, an astonishing thing happened. I heard a voice.

Bob paused for effect. Then he continued: "The Voice spoke loud and clear, saying this:"


I was processing whether Bob had experienced a trance-state vision, a theophany, some sort of a divine encounter, when he continued describing the event.

“After you said that in a loud, preachy insistent tone, you rolled over on your side, and continued by snoring for the remainder of the night!”  

Bob looked ticked off, and then he laughed. Suddenly I realized what had just happened:

I had preached to myself in my sleep—and Bob was given the message to deliver back to me, just in case I missed it!

And every time I met Bob (and we served on that board together for the next 7 years), he wouldn’t say “hello” or “how are you doing.” At least twice a day, for those 16 days a year (4 more when we include the travel day), he would see me, race over and grab my hand as if to shake it, look me in the eye, and say,


Then, the members of that board began to do the same! It was hard not to get the message. That was the beginning of my learning to just stop, a minimum of one day a week, to just “be myself!” Jesus said it this way,

“The Sabbath was made to serve us.

We weren’t made to serve the Sabbath (Mark 2:27 MSG).”

© David Chotka 2020