“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)
Snatching moments of rest is about as satisfying as picking crumbs up off the ground under a table that has a feast laid on it. Even a pocketful of crumbs doesn’t add up to one mouth-watering bite of gourmet pizza or sweet cake when you’re famished. And it’s guaranteed that we all get famished one way or another. A big meal doesn’t last us for more than a few hours before our appetite starts talking to us again, “Feed me!” And here’s the thing; we have a choice about when and what to feed it. Many of us, myself included, will sometimes grab a quick snack or fill up with junk food giving us the false impression of satisfaction, but it’s not long before our appetite says, “REAL food, please!”
So it is with rest. How can we ever feel truly rested, refreshed and soul-nourished if we nibble away at moments or try to fill up with junk. “Who has the time to rest?” “I’m too busy.” “You can sleep when you die.” There are all kinds of excuses to ignore the very thing that even God did after His work was completed. It’s too easy to crossout rest on that ever increasing to do list of daily chores and appointments. We work long hours every day of the week, come home to work around the house some more, only to work again on the weekends getting caught up on things that we didn’t get done during the week. Or we take the weekend to have fun camping, hiking, or skiing and either feel guilty about not working or feel exhausted as we unpack the car on Sunday night. Sound familiar?
How do we find the time to rest – really rest? I think the answer is that we treat it as any other important thing on our list – we schedule it in and guard it possessively. And we have a plan. God had a plan all laid out for us regarding rest and I figured there must be something to it if He created it for us. And it must be important if He included it in the Ten Commandments. Why do we honor all the Ten Commandments except the fourth? “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) Some may argue, “But that was then and this is now. Those are old rules for an ancient culture.” Or “That applies only to the Jewish people.” Hmmm…well, then I guess the whole Bible applies only to the Jewish people because Jesus was a Jew, right? All I’m saying is that from the beginning of time, we have all been designed with basic needs and if we ignore them we risk burnout, body and soul.
What does “Sabbath rest” look like? I personally am not the least bit interested in sitting around looking at the walls, or holing up in my house to pray and fast all day, although that’s totally acceptable. I remember that Jesus got into a lot of trouble because He didn’t follow the plethora of rules and regulations the Pharisees burdened the people with regarding the Sabbath. How did Jesus “honor the Sabbath?” I read that He served others, healing them and ministering to their needs. He hung out with his friends, talking about God, and basically enjoyed his rest for a complete 24 hours. He made this day look different than all the rest; feasting on the important and putting the urgent aside.
So, I’m off on an experiment of sorts to integrate “Sabbath rest” into my life. For the next five weeks beginning today July 16, I’m committed to making an entire 24 hours (from Saturday evening to Sunday evening) look different from the rest of my week. I am NOT a rule and regulation type of girl – in fact, I have a lot more rebel under my skin than I like to admit, but I DO believe in healthy habits so here’s where I’ll start:
- Turn off all electronics for 24 hours
This means resisting the daily temptation to check emails, login to Facebook or randomly search the internet. No TV, phone calls, pinging, texting, instagram, or downloading allowed because that usually links to more of the same and before you know it, I’ve lost focus, an hour (or more) has gone by and I can’t remember what I was originally trying to do. You know what I’m talking about. (OK, exceptions to the rule…here’s the rebel in me…Answering a phone call from my children and using my computer for things like writing and music specifically centered around God and rest.)
- Intentionally engage in activities that serve God and others
This includes getting together with family, friends and needy ones. Connection in relationships by laughing, eating, helping, telling stories, playing games, singing…whatever brings us all together with the exception of watching a football game on TV (see above). It could also mean I just talk a quiet “gratitude” walk and meditate on everything I’m thankful for.
- Enjoy reading, singing, church, hobbies, hiking – anything that helps me focus on God in my life.
- Avoid those things that lead me into distraction including consumerism, gossip, distasteful chores (hate housework, love gardening), worrying about tomorrow’s tasks or trying to solve problems that can wait another day.
Realistically, I know there will be times where I will be tempted to “cheat” and rationalize why I NEED to go shopping for that perfect baby gift or check my emails (again) or get caught up on work, and I won’t beat myself up for it. But part of the satisfaction you get from success is directly related to how much you sacrificed for it – how you chose to stay committed. And it is a choice. I will need to consistently ask myself, “Is this an activity that honors God and/or serves others?” In the span of 24 hours I get to choose how to rest in order to be the best I can be for Him and for others that count on me during the rest of the week. And I will need to be intentional about getting things done during the other six days of the week to prepare for that day of rest.
I’ve read that to create a habit you must commit to do it for 21 days. After that it becomes a habit or at least it’s on your radar each day. I hope that by the end of my experiment (August 16th – 28 days) I will have produced a habit that I look forward to exercising every week – that I see it as a privilege rather than a duty. I hope that it will move from being an intentional task to being something I look forward to – like pulling my chair up to a table set with a big feast and gorging myself on all the goodness that is offered to me.
How about you? Feel inspired to join me on this journey? Everyone and anyone is invited. Let me know how it works for you.