By: Justin Camp– In the century and a quarter since Karl Benz’s invented the horseless carriage, it’s fair to say that his invention had conquered the world. As the decades rolled on, many other engineers and inventors have added their own modifications and improvements. Now, those automobiles of old are mere shadows of what the car has become. And while a few thousand rumbling through the mud and dust and cobbles of Europe was a big deal in the late nineteenth century, there are a million times that today.
And all those owners know just how quickly their machines can break down. To keep their cars running, owners spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on maintenance and repair.
We have little choice, right? Cars need it. Rust, corrosion, erosion, deterioration, heat damage, clogs, tears, breaks, ruptures—even the best made and most durable things break down, eventually. “If you fail to change the oil, no one will fine you or take you to jail,” Timothy Keller wrote, “your car will simply break down because you violated its nature.” How many seasons would a current model year Mercedes-Benz last if its owner neglected all maintenance? Many fewer than the engineers who built it intended, for sure. Maintenance is an imperative.
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine.”
C.S. Lewis wrote that. But we human beings are more intricate than even the most complex engine—and we need maintenance too. It’s our nature. It’s how our Maker designed us. God designs us to need his maintenance, from him.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
Psalm 23:2-3 (ESV)
Imagine an inventor in his workshop—like Benz in Mannheim in the nineteenth centry—apron on, surrounded by tools and spare parts, cleaning his inventions, repairing, oiling, refueling. He’s eager and earnest and joyful. Careful. Attentive.
Our Creator God, our inventor, is like that with us. We captivate him. He loves being the one to care for us. Just as he promised the people of Israel in Babylonian exile, “every languishing soul I will replenish” (ESV, Jeremiah 31:25), he will replenish ours too. If we let him.
God wires us with desires, interests, motivations, and ambitions. He wires us for certain types of work; but he wires us for certain types of rest, restoration, recreation, and relationship too. He’s designed joy, beauty, and connection to be our maintenance.
There are things we’re each uniquely built to love. There are activities and experiences we enjoy, not because anyone told us to, but because it’s how we’re designed. And they’re as much a part of our true identities as anything else.
They bring abundance to our lives. Jesus promises: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV, John 10:10). Some fullness comes from the significance and excitement of our work, of course. But much too comes from the things we love.
These things bring sweetness to our lives. They enliven and restore us. They allow us to recover ourselves. They connect us with God too. They bring us close to him in a way that work can’t. We get to see him, understand him in new, invigorating ways. By his grace, they deepen our relationship with him. As we spend time in nature, exercise, community, worship, solitude, play, and prayer, we meet him.
He makes us so that we need these activities and experiences . . . and then he blesses us with opportunities to engage in them. That’s how great his love is.
And when we engage in them, it gives us confidence. We’re able to see, in real ways, in real time, just how much he loves us. We feel it, and we begin to understand.
This whole life—this whole universe—it’s all about love.
Maintenance is a key part of the pattern God intends for our lives: work, rest, work, restoration, work, recreation, work, relationship. But too many of us ignore it. And like never changing the oil in our automobiles, that feels fine . . . for a while.
But it isn’t fine. Rest and restoration are what maintain our health and balance. We need work, absolutely—but we also need Sabbath. God modeled the Sabbath pattern when he created the world:
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
God even made Sabbath a commandment:
“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.”
He put it right alongside his commandments to not murder or steal or commit adultery. It’s that important. But some of us don’t believe it. So many of us don’t live like it.
Jesus modeled the pattern too—
but he also sharpened our thinking about Sabbath. He taught us, it’s less about specific rules and a specific day of the week, and more about the condition and maintenance of our hearts: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
God wants to maintain his people through rest and Sabbath, because he loves us. But his love doesn’t stop there. He loves everyone that much—and he wants to love some people through us. But, the thing is, he can’t do that unless and until we let him love us, first. We cannot bless until we’ve been blessed. We cannot give until we’ve received.
Just as every car since Benz’s first needed and needs periodic cleaning and care, oil and lubrication to function properly, we need the pattern of rest and Sabbath. Without it, we simply can’t do the work of our callings very well. And we can’t meet our obligations very well either—as husbands, fathers, and friends.
Charles Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers,” as he was called in nineteenth century London, said it this way: “It is economy to gather fresh strength . . . It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”
When we engage in maintenance activities and experiences, then our families, our friends, our coworkers, and the world, get stronger, more joyful, more powerful, more productive versions of us.
Without maintenance, we can’t love as we’re meant to love. We can’t serve as we’re meant to serve. We can’t know God or ourselves as we’re meant to. But when we’re running well and healthy, then we can love and serve other people from a place of abundance, not of depletion, overflowing with the love we’ve already received.
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Where are you? Does rest and replenishment characterize your life? Or do you sometimes feel like a car running on empty, clogged with dirty oil, with squealing belts and worn tires?
The pace at which most of us live our lives ensures we have little or no time for maintenance. (I used to leave no time for it.) We feel pressure just to keep up. We feel pressure to achieve our goals, to prove ourselves. We’re convinced that achievement and status are what are most important. And we schedule every minute such that taking time to come home to God is simply impossible.
So when we think about engaging in activities and experiences outside of work, we ask ourselves—immediately, instinctively—how could we ever find the time? How can we take time from our busy schedules to listen to music, take a run in the foothills, go backpacking and fly fishing, sleep-in, get up early to pray, spend time with friends? How could we be so irresponsible . . . so immature?
How responsible is it, though, to disregard a car’s maintenance schedule? How mature is it to ignore a car’s engine light? It’s neither, of course. It’s the opposite. It’s irresponsible and immature to neglect the important things over which we have ownership and control.
How much more irresponsible and immature is it to neglect ourselves—who are more valuable and wondrous than any machine, and who have more potential?
(Adapted from Invention by Justin Camp from Elevate Publishing)
Justin Camp is a co-founder of Gather Ministries, a nonprofit he runs with his wife, Jennifer. He wrote Invention and WiRE—both #1 Amazon Best Sellers for Christian men. Justin also co-founded a seed-stage venture capital firm, through which he had the opportunity to invest in some amazing Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Prior to that, he was a lawyer in New York City.
Justin, Jennifer, and their three children live on the San Francisco Peninsula.