I feel like we usually think of rest in terms of needing a break from business. Resting in God is equated to sitting in the bottom of a boat, calm as a cucumber, in the middle of a wild storm; or a baby cradled in their mother’s arms in front of a warm fire as a blizzard rages around the house. We don’t think about resting and needing rest until we’re surrounded by seas of doubts and questions, or when we nearly reach our breaking point and we scream out I NEED REST!!!
However, I don’t think that’s the end of what the Bible tells us about rest. Yes, it does tell us that in those chaotic barely-treading-water in-over-my-head moments that we can rest in and rely on him and his peace (those who are weary come to me and I will give you rest!)….but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have those things when I’m not in seasons of incredible weariness. Resting also includes that bit of downtime in the evening where its just me and a book or my latest Netflix obsession. It’s the Saturday morning walk by myself or the Sunday afternoon coffee with a friend. It’s taking a weekly sabbath and – maybe – a year of jubilee?
Ok I’m kidding this isn’t a post about how you should take a year off every 7 years and do nothing/have a party all year when you turn 50 (but if you do, invite me to one of your celebrations – I love cake!). This is a post about how I’ve been ignoring the rest day and how it finally caught up with me…as it always does. It’s also about how I tend to seek business and the next step when the season I’m in is really about being restful.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t rest well. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of resting and relaxing, and that I don’t enjoy having a day off…my problem is that I A. Have so many things I could also do instead and B. Feel a little bit guilty about “taking the time off”. I don’t rest well. I can rest, and I do rest (occasionally) but I don’t do it well. While I enjoy kicking it back and relaxing, I have a hard time allowing myself the space to do that. Sure, I could rest, but I could also tackle the things on my to do list! And then, when I’m tired and forced to “rest” I feel lazy and unproductive and guilty for taking time to do nothing “important”. But rest is important! (I tell myself weekly, if not daily) Yet every single time I have my schedule mysteriously open up while I’m particularly busy, I blow the time on something else I could do instead of taking the time to rest and recover for whatever is going to happen next. Resting looks different for different people and I know even for me it looks vastly different depending on the day and time, but for some reason I’m often inclined to avoid the resting activity I need the most!
I’ve always liked the idea of sabbath, and when I was in school I told myself that when I graduated I would totally enact the idea of sabbath. I’ve been done for a while, and I still love the idea of sabbath, but now I feel guilty for taking it. I feel guilty for having to hide in my room at the end of the day from my family for some me time – how could I possibly explain that I need to take a day to be by myself at home or out?? I could go for a walk with my mom or I could go for a walk by myself. Both are good, and both can be restful, but why do I feel guilty needing to do one or the other?
And yet … In Genesis 2 we see God bless the rest day! God himself worked hard and then rested. It’s also one of the 10 commandments (see Exodus 20:8-11, 31:13-18, Deuteronomy 4:12-15). Therefore rest is good. Rest is important. Rest is necessary.
Furthering my point, the next time we see observations about sabbath and resting is in Leviticus 25 when we learn about the sabbath year, and the year of jubilee. Usually when we talk about those, at least for me, it sounds amazing. How cool is it that every 7 years God promised they would have plenty enough to survive another whole year??? And that the entire nation should spend a year glorifying God for everything he had done! Canada 150 reminds me a bit of that kind of celebration – a whole country coming together to celebrate for an entire year. Except the year of Jubilee would totally be even better, I‘m sure of it. But I was thinking …. Hey what if in year 49 you finally scraped together the money to buy a farm…and you were super fired up about it and what you were going to plant the next year in your fields? You have it all planned out and then … hey it’s year of jubilee and while partying is super great, you’re also incredibly put out because all those goals you have have been put on hold so you have to wait. And let the land rest. And rest yourself.
So how does this pan out in my life? Well … for one I should probably be taking this whole weekly sabbath thing more seriously. If I believe that God is sovereign and he created the earth, time, and space, then me “taking a day off” shouldn’t affect the work I’m doing for him. If he is the literal maker of time, then there is time enough for me to rest as he says to! I know this is true because on those days when I actually do take the time to rest as I ought (not just Netflix binging – actual intentional rest and resting with God included! – but that’s another whole post), I am so much more ready for the next days and what they throw at me. And yet when the next day comes around I still try and skirt around taking it to rest! So goal #1 set aside a sabbath and keep it holy.
Stepping back a bit, looking at the sabbath year, realistically I don’t think my boss is going to give me a year off every 7 years to let my computer take a break. However, I can embrace the seasonal breaks that I’m given. This summer, for example! Acknowledging that the previous year has ended, and taking advantage of the fact that right now “the ground” is resting. Or, in comparison, the people are resting. Regular programming in life and in church life take a break in the summer – cov coms, 2-service Sundays, youth, woven, exhort, kidsview, welcoming … we all scale way back and let the people rest. As much as I love some of the programs we have at FV, we need breaks! Seasons of collective resting and recuperating and vision-casting are so important together. I know I’m incredibly excited for some of the things we’re starting up in the fall – we have a new youth director, we have building permits, the kids play is a winner this year (in my opinion!) and I’m sure there is so much more that I don’t even know about. I’m excited! But right now … it is still rest time. As much as I want to jump the gun, I need to take the time now to rest and reap the fruits of last year (and prepare a bit!) so that the next “season of work” will be great. In fact, without this season of rest, there is no way I would be ready for the season of work! Therefore, goal #2 is to embrace the short rest seasons and make them count.
Stepping back even further, taking the year of jubilee into account, if I look at my life, I’m in a bigger rest period. I’m 24 and I live at home with my parents still – aka I have significantly less expenses and responsibilities than most of you reading this post! As much as I want to move out and take on those things – and consequently have to work a lot more – maybe I should be viewing this time period as a restful one instead of an uncomfortable in-between one. Taking the time to rest and enjoy the time that I have – learning things that I’ve always wanted to learn, spending time with people more because I don’t have to clean my kitchen tonight, investing a ton of time into the things I’m passionate about because I don’t have to mow my lawn and grocery shop and cook dinner on Saturday. Doing the things I just listed so someone else can rest (hi mom). Ending with goal #3: to take the uncomfortable not knowing and turn it into a time of seeking and growing closer to the one who knows me best.
Resting isn’t bad. Resting is good. Resting shouldn’t be something we have to do because we’ve been so busy and we just can’t anymore … rest should be something we regularly participate in to experience and reap the goodness of our God. A weekly, seasonal action we take to better become the people we’re meant to be and serve the God we dedicate our lives to. I encourage you to take some time to reflect on rest and how resting/sabbaths can (and maybe already do!) play a part in your lives. What does rest look like to you? Are you excited for the next season – rest or work – that God has for you? Are you embracing whichever one you’re in now?