‘Working from a place of rest’

Over a number of years I have valued the support and care from my personal supervisor, a wise and experienced ex-headteacher and Methodist lay minister.  She has grown to know me very well and during this period of lockdown I often find myself thinking, what would Ann say about this, what would Ann encourage me to do?  The importance of having supervision should, perhaps, be the subject of another ‘musing’ but, for the moment, let us accept how important this is, and has been, to me over many years.

A few years ago, Ann introduced me to a book with the intriguing title of ‘Working from a place of rest’ and I often have cause to return to this message.  As we approach, what should be an opportunity for rest, I am mindful that for many, they may feel that they just don’t have the time.  Having been in the world of education for 36 years in September, I have heard that comment on many occasions and I have said the same myself. Often, they have been uttered by seemingly strong, resilient and experienced colleagues but, however indestructible you may feel, ‘burn out’, or whatever else you may wish to call it, can catch you by surprise.  I often use the analogy of driving a car; when you are suddenly faced with a challenge, you are used to being able to move up a gear as there has always been that extra power ready and waiting to be used.  It comes as something of a shock when that next gear isn’t there anymore and, instead of surging forward, you come to a shuddering stop.

As you may be aware, for most of my working life I have, in some way or another, worked with church schools and I have used this book in various training sessions with a range of different colleagues.  The story on which this book is based may not be one that you are familiar with.  It occurs in John’s Gospel and relates the story of Jesus’ arrival in the Samaritan village of Sychar, ‘Jacob’s Well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.’  The author, Tony Horsfall, explains: ‘In a flash I saw the significance of these simple words and realised something quite staggering in its implications. Jesus was doing nothing. He was having a rest, taking a break, giving himself a breather. Sitting there on the edge of the well, he was pausing and giving himself permission to stop and simply to be.’

As the story unfolds it becomes clear that ‘everything that happens in the story happens because Jesus was doing nothing. The fact that he was resting, taking some time out, is what gives him the opportunity to ‘waste’ time with the Samaritan woman who comes to the well while he is sitting there. Because of that life-giving conversation, not only is her life changed but the whole Samaritan town experiences revival. None of this is premediated or planned. It is purely a spontaneous event, dependent on the fact that Jesus is doing nothing.’

Whether you have a faith or not, the message is clear; it is impossible to continue working without a break.  Yes, you can manage for so long, you can ‘get by’. But, at some point, your body will scream ‘enough’!  I don’t know about you but there are times, when you are struggling to complete a task, that stopping and doing something completely different can actually help with the solution.  As a headteacher, going for a run after work used to help me resolve many a problem that had been challenging me all afternoon.  It may not be a run but you will know what helps you find that peace you need and, quite often, the outcomes are significantly greater and more positive than if you had continued with your struggles.

So, as we prepare for a potentially complex and challenging couple of months, can I suggest you take the opportunity to ‘sit by the well for a while and take some time out to reflect on how you are living and working.’

‘Working from a place of rest’

Tony Horsfall    ISBN 978 1 84101 544 6