At the Quarter Mark: Engagement & Rest

*While speaking of our day at A Rocha below, we truly rested in creation without taking photos, and so the images included here are from other days to this point of our program.

Picture this past Friday, October 21, in southwestern Ontario, just north of the western tip of Lake Ontario, as Act Five spent an afternoon and evening at Cedar Haven, A Rocha Ontario’s Eco-Centre, north on Highway 6 from Hamilton.

It was one of those days you dream of in the fall in Ontario. Perfectly warm for almost any attire; just the right amount of leaves fallen on the ground to give that carpeted crunch as you walk, while still leaving the forest clothed in its full glory. And the colours of the trees—have you noticed them this year?! Stunning.

Our students are at the 7-week mark, a point every year where students feel the impact of all the transition that comes with the first quarter of Act Five. It is amazing to see them settled and living in an intentional community, sharing the most meaningful and mundane parts of life with 21 other young adults whom they did not know 7 weeks ago. They cook for large groups every week when some had never cooked a meal in their life. They sometimes wait for 7 others to shower before they get their turn. They are navigating a schedule with their learning and traveling, and they are digging into new layers of their faith and themselves, all alongside the daily social and fun opportunities that happen in a community like this.

These are all good things, but it is a lot of change. Not to mention that all of this was newly introduced over a relatively short amount of time.

So this past Friday, as we spent a day resting in creation in what felt like a perfect day, it seemed as though God gave us exactly what we needed. In the midst of this, I came upon a moment that fascinated me.

We have a few sick students getting over some bad colds. One of these had hung back from the group and was sitting on a picnic table enjoying the wind rush over her. I saw her talking to herself and walked over.

“Am I interrupting?” I asked.

“Not at all,” she responded, “I’m just processing out loud to myself. I do this sometimes.”

She shared with me what she was working through out loud to herself on this picnic table, all with a persistent head cold. As she shared, she said something that jumped out at me:

“I have waited to come to Act Five for SO long, and I want to improve some of my habits so I can engage and get everything out of my time here.” She recounted to me moment after moment—when one person shared this in a class and one person shared that around a dinner table or living room conversation.

I was left with humility and full of admiration for this student. Here she was, with every excuse to disengage or just complain about being sick and not being in bed, choosing instead to be sitting on a picnic table and to look at how she could engage MORE, how she could grow in how she spends her days through new rhythms of sleep, phone use, quiet, or exercise.

She is already getting it. She is paying attention to where she is being led this year and is wanting to bring more and more of herself into the rich formation that is offered to her this year.

I left her there and saw all 13 of our students differently. I knew that many were tired and sick (and a bit grumpy), and in our world today, I wonder how many of them would have been dismissed as grumpy “just because they are teenagers”?

For our students at least, on this day—and I imagine this is often the case more than we realize among the young people in our lives—they were tired because they are spending their energy well; because they are engaging and bravely entering into growth within corners of who they are that they didn’t even know existed a few weeks ago. Of course they are tired!

It made me wonder.

For any of you reading, are you tired at the end of your week because you are engaged, longing to learn, grow, be present, and invest in community as we see in our students right now? Do we enter into our days with the kind of wholeheartedness that Act Five students are modeling to me right now, leaving us tired and sometimes a little grumpy?

While rest is important, and a huge part of what we as Christians are called to practice as an act of faith(fulness) in a world of hustle, we are also called to engage. We are called to spend ourselves on things worth spending ourselves on.

For each of you, may you pause your scrolling and engage a bit more where you are, with those around you, and with your God. When it then is time to rest, may you rest deeply (hopefully in creation).

For us at Act Five, pray for good rest and that our students would continue to find the balance between engaging wholly and listening to the limits of their bodies.

Two final notes:

Blessings to you,

Jon Berends
Act Five Director

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