In February, while on a short vacation, I saw a leopold bench. leopold benchI decided I wanted to build one. To put out by the garden, I thought. It would be simple to build, sturdy to use.

It’s August. All I have is the photo.

I thought of it this weekend while on another short vacation. We were visiting the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. I noticed lots of benches. And as I was looking at them I thought, “I wonder if bench makers ever sit on the benches they make?”

I haven’t built a bench for awhile, but I’m not sure I’ve ever sat on one of the benches I’ve built. If I had built the leopold, I probably wouldn’t have stopped long enough to sit by the garden.

Many of us who make benches for people to rest on, whether of wood or words, don’t stop to rest ourselves. We’re on to the next project, driven to help people, afraid to stop and listen. We’re afraid we’ll fall short.

While resting this weekend, thinking about benches, I thought of what Jesus said about gaining much and losing our souls:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

bench in useWe’re working hard so we don’t have to hear a voice in our head, serving because we’re afraid to be served, measuring up to some standard we think God establishes. But in all that hard work, our souls slip away.

Maybe losing our lives means sitting still for a bit. Especially if Jesus is sitting on the other end of the bench.

12 thoughts on “Benched.

  1. Todd Lohenry

    I, too, have been wanting to build one of these benches but I didn’t know what to search for. Now, thanks to you, I know they are called Leopold benches and I now have plans to build one in my task list so I, too, can sit with Jesus in my garden or down at the pond…

    Thanks, Jon! Have a great week…


  2. Matches Malone

    Still wondering whether or not you’re going to build the bench. I get that it’s a metaphor, I’m simply stating that the premise stated at the beginning was not fulfilled. But that’s okay, as you’ve illustrated your point beautifully. I’m reminded of the footsteps story.


  3. Jill

    How your story relates to my story: after 8 months of waiting I packed up my yarn and knitting supplies and fabric, etc this weekend to donate. I’m finding that the time I spend with Him is way more satisfying than the work my hands were doing to avoid it.

    I think your bench building will be an act of worship if you build it with your post in mind. Perhaps the bench makers are never intended to sit in their benches, but their purpose is to worship through the building and find their joy in the process, not the product, knowing that others can find the rest they are looking for in the product…

    Just an early morning thought…yawn


  4. Cheryl

    There is a precious balance between action and rest. Too much action with little rest makes one empty and dry. Too much rest with little action makes one a body without the spirit, or dead, as written in James 2:26. My battle is trying to find the right mix of both.


  5. joseph ruiz

    I wonder if sometimes rest is doing the same activities as worship, like some of you have already said. For me it’s kind of like shifting from 4th to 5th gear in a car the result is same speed just a lot less effort for the engine. Cheryl I can relate to the balance challenge, personally I am in pursuit of a formula and the answer probably is what Jon wrote about last week it’s not about the distance I cover it’s more about the transformation along the journey.


  6. Rich Dixon

    Life and pastoring and benches are simple and complex, but we tend to make them complicated and noisy. It’s probably not the building or the sitting that matters, but the heart beneath them.


  7. Jon Swanson

    i’m guessing that there is never a formula. I’m guessing that there is a dynamic tension which always takes adjustment as our lives change. Mark Buchanan and Eugene Peterson and Mindy Caliguire and Ruth Hayley Barton and Dallas Willard and Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith all seem to imply this truth. I’ll have to talk more about them in the coming weeks. If I find the time. 🙂


  8. Cheryl Smith (@CherylSmith999)

    Just today, in my word study of Psalm 91:1 I came across a new word for Abide (remember that True Vine Challenge?): yashab, Strongs #3427. It’s the “dwell” of Psalm 91:1, and the first part of the definition says “to sit down.”

    Dwell. Rest. Abide. Even Oikos. All related.


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