LEGEND HAS IT THAT A HIKER ONCE CAME UPON ST. JOHN, sitting in the wilderness. St. John was doing nothing, only sitting under a great old tree. The hiker knew that the venerable saint was well-known for his zeal and the ardor of his faith, and so he was curious about the fact that, out here in the wilderness, he was doing nothing at all!

“Why is it that you are not busy, doing the Lord’s work?” the traveler asked.

St. John replied, “Do you know why my bow, which is lying beside me, is unstrung?”

“No,” said the traveler, “I don’t know why. In fact, keeping it strung would mean your bow would be at the ready if you needed it.”

“Yes,” replied St. John, “You are correct. But if my bow was never unstrung, it would become weak and be good for nothing. I must let my bow rest, so that it will remain powerful. So it is with me. I must rest in order to keep my strength.”

That is so true in my experience. Rest and strength are closely related. If you never rest, you will lose your strength. Perhaps this is a timely message for these midsummer days. With school out and the kids enjoying what Frederick Buechner called “the firefly dusk of summer,” it may be that you will be lucky enough to head for the mountains or the seashore (it seems that the world is divided into “mountain people” and “beach people”) for some rest and relaxation. Or perhaps that isn’t in the cards for you this year. Nonetheless, I do hope that you will take the time to “unstring the bow,” to indulge in the wonderful discipline of rest, so that you remain strong.

Steven Covey, in his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” tells a similar story of another hiker. This traveler discovers a woodsman, toiling hard to cut down a huge oak tree. “How long have you been sawing at that tree?” the traveler asked. “Oh, hours now,” the woodsman replied.

“Why don’t you go and get your saw sharpened?” asked the traveler. “Oh, I don’t have time – I’ve got to get this tree down!” And so Covey calls the seventh of his Habits “Sharpening the Saw.”

Sharpening the saw is like unstringing your bow. They are both forms of rest and renewal. So go take a vacation somewhere – on a distant island, or in your own back yard. After all, it will make you strong.

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