According to a Greek legend, in ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.
Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical man, "Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bow implies."
The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. The moralist explained, "If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it."
So it is with us. Our minds and bodies are like the bow. When constantly under pressures of everyday life, we can eventually break. We need to loosen up; we need time to take the pressure off and relax. For some, that may mean time off to rest and recreate. For some, it may mean Sabbath. It is no wonder that observing the Sabbath in Judeo-Christian tradition is a commandment, not a suggestion.
Have you heard the funny story of the woman who needed a few days off from work, but knew the boss wasn't likely to give her leave? She thought that maybe if she acted "crazy," then he would tell her to go home for a while. So, she hung upside-down from the ceiling
and made funny noises.
Her co-worker asked her what she was doing. She said that she was pretending to be a light bulb so the boss might think she desperately needed of a few days off.
Her plan worked beautifully. A few minutes later, the boss heard the commotion and came into the office. "Oh, my!" he exclaimed. "What in the world are you doing?" She explained that she was a light bulb and he told her to go home immediately and rest for a few days.
As she walked out of the office, her co-worker followed close behind. Their boss called, "And where do you think you're going?"
"I'm going home, too," she said. "I can't work in the dark."
I suppose we all have our ways of getting our needs met. And one of the things we all need, especially those of us in stressful environments, is real down time.
Former baseball pitcher Dutch Leonard might have put it a little differently. He once said that the secret of great pitching is not speed or the ability to throw curves. It's the "change of pace." The average batter will soon learn to hit a pitcher who continually throws the same kind of pitch. But it's hard to hit against a pitcher who changes the pace of delivery. That change of pace gives a pitcher the edge over the best of batters.
A change of pace likewise gives us an edge in life. Taking time to watch the clouds, enjoy a breeze, take a walk, read or just slow down is necessary if we are to be our best later. And for me, a regular day of rest is as important as regular sleep. It's a way of taking the pressure off.
To be my best, I need to be sure to change my pace. It is usually just the change I need.