I don’t know about you, but I’m always struggling with rest. How do I do it? Why do I do it? What am I allowed to do? What should I not do? Do I really have to take a whole day off for Sabbath? I remember one time when I had a buildup of frustration from a couple of really busy weeks that ended in anger and conflict with my wife, Rebekah. As we were reconciling and sharing our feelings, I reflected on the last couple of weeks. Had I been reading my Bible or praying much? The answer was no. And in fact, we both had neglected these practices. It seemed my understanding of grace and love faded as I focused more and more on myself and things I needed to accomplish during the day and less on the goodness of God. Part of resting is allowing yourself to be filled up so you love others better.
Why do we rest?
“The Scriptures tell us, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ but most of us never really learn to love ourselves, thinking we can make up for this deficit if we practice loving others. We have to practice what love is by making room for who we are – the good and the bad. Otherwise, the love we offer others will always lack the depth of its potential.”
-Christopher Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram
When you fully experience rest, you will be able to fully love others. The people who go to work tired on Monday and complain all day about it being Monday are not fully rested. When you are fully rested, your body and mind are restored, allowing you to be pumped up and overflowing for Monday’s work.
“God gave us the gift of Sabbath – not just as a day, but as an orientation, a way of seeing and knowing. Sabbath-keeping is a form of mending. It’s mortar in the joints. Keep Sabbath, or else break too easily, and oversoon. Keep it, otherwise our dustiness consumes us, becomes us, and we end up able to hold exactly nothing.”
-Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath
Ceasing to work (or Sabbath) has to be a posture we take. We must see how it keeps us together, makes us stronger, and restores us.
How do we rest?
For me practically, this means creating regular rhythms of rest each week – even each day. During the day when I have a free moment, or my brain needs a break, I’ll stop and wait on the Holy Spirit. Listening. I may not hear anything, but the stillness and the silence are sometimes enough. This could be turning off the radio while I’m in the car alone for a moment of solitude. It could be not pulling out my phone when I’m standing in line at the store or waiting for a meeting to start. It’s helpful for me to set boundaries in my life too. For example, not opening work email at home when I want to be fully present with my wife and kids.
God commands us to rest. Exodus 20:8-10 says,
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work...”
It’s clear, but it’s slightly annoying that God gave no more instruction on how to rest practically. The goal is to cease all things “work” related. You should base what you do on the reasons why you are resting. You don’t have to read the Bible and pray all day (but if you can and you enjoy it, then do it!). Think of things that bring you joy and rest. For me, I really enjoy DIY projects on my house, playing the drums or guitar, hiking, and baking bread (oh, and naps!). Of course, any of these items can become accomplishments on a to do list. But that’s not the point. When I do these activities, I’m simply enjoying them. I’m not doing work. And I’m not concerned about what others may think about what I’m doing, or how I accomplish them. As I enjoy these activities, I become aware of the goodness and grace of God. As a parent, I can do some of these restful activities with my kids, while sometimes I may need a break from my kids to fully rest. Be aware of your physical, emotional, and spiritual capacities. If one or more of these are areas are empty, think of ways to fill them.
John Ortberg (in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People) was seeking some wisdom from a friend. He explained the pace at which things in his life were occurring and the condition of his heart. And then he asked his friend what he needed to do to be spiritually healthy.
His mentor’s advice (after a long pause) was, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Do you feel like this is good advice for you?
Are you always busy?
If so, find some things you enjoy doing and make a point of doing them and enjoying them purposefully; knowing that the result will be a healthier you.