I’m feeling so excited to share something with you all, but it is like I’m experiencing a mental traffic jam, with a whole bunch of thoughts via for first place.
“Merge, everyone. There is space for you all.”
Where shall I begin?
Well, in this last month, my husband and I have been learning about the Sabbath. I’m certainly not an expert in the Jewish traditions, but what we have realized is that every created thing on this earth was designed to thrive with routine rest.
Even saying that sounds so logical that I shake my head in wonder that it is taking me this long to embrace the reality. We can see the rhythm of seasons, how even nature goes into a time of hibernation. We know that wise farmers let their land rest. Professional athletes know that sleep is essential. We beg our toddlers to nap, because we know they are at their best when they are rested. I’ve often wondered why my children fight sleep so hard. It’s like they don’t want to miss out on anything, but by pushing themselves, they actually suffer more.
I suppose I’ve been a grown-up who has been fighting theoretical naps. Turns out you can only do this for so long before your body and soul will set off an alarm in your system.
I’ve often suspected that some of our trouble in society is that we try to rest when we should be working (laziness), and we try to work when we should be resting (striving). Our days become frantic, instead of finding that steady, guilt-free rhythm.
We live in a world that is addicted to progress and productivity. Very few have escaped the clutches of these claws; some go after wealth, others chase notoriety.
We can chase relationships and personal significance. We run after perfection or at least constant personal improvement. Followers of Christ may even be addicted to serving, growing, or trying to make a difference in a hurting world. This pressure may not even come from external sources, but from internal ones, where our best intentions drive us.
I’m guilty. I’ve been so humbled this year. I’m glad that I can say that actually. My body and soul were sounding the alarm that I had pushed myself too hard. I was experiencing occasional panic attacks, where I would have to coach myself through the breathing process. Deep breath in. Release it. Repeat. Things that were normally easy for me suddenly became monstrously intimidating. The idea of heading into a crowd of people would make my pulse race and my palms sweat. Not always, but enough that I was needing to reevaluate life and my internal world. “This isn’t like me,” I said over and over again to my husband. (I would also add, “It won’t be this way forever!”)
My friends would say incredibly gracious things: Take it easy on yourself, Bonnie. Don’t forget to rest. You can’t do it all. Ask for help.
Yes. Yes. I would nod and try. Try, try, try to rest. Try to go for a walk. Try to go to bed early when I could. Try to eat in a healthy way. Journal, process emotion, savor music and community.
But inside, I wrestled.
“If I could just stretch myself a little farther….”
“If I could just get this one last thing done….”
“I can multi-task!”
Then, one Thursday afternoon I saw a rash show up on my left side. Turned out to be shingles. Shingles is normally triggered by stress. “Dang it!” I thought, “I’ve been trying so hard to not be stressed!”
I was forced to and I chose to sit still. To lay still. To say “no” and to let my body heal. Shingles really hurts, but, statistically, I healed quickly. And I learned a lesson simultaneously. I don’t think that I’ll never struggle with this again, but the process of pain uprooted and re-established some things in me.
My husband and I went away the next weekend; miraculously we had been planning that months ahead of time. While we were resting on the hotel bed, we determined together – let’s learn how to do a Sabbath every week as a family.
For our schedule, we realized that our best bet would be from Friday evening through to Saturday evening. We spend Friday afternoon preparing, cleaning, and finishing up what we can. It is a little extra work spread out over the week for the purpose of a mini-vacation for that one day. Phones and all intentions of productivity are put away. Then for a full day, we are dedicated to three things: rest, holiness, and joy.
For a full day we are released from the pressure to achieve, catch up, attain new things, stretch ourselves, or get ahead. Our responsibility for that time is to be grateful for what we already have.
We’ve only been observing a Sabbath for a short time, but I am convinced that it is the answer to the frantic pace of our world. On the first Sabbath that we did as a family, we drove out to a nearby lake, to a quiet part of the beach. We ate chips and guacamole. The boys threw rocks into the water and climbed on driftwood. We observed birds, boats, and a frog. We didn’t have an appointment to get back for. We didn’t have an agenda of conversations to be had. We just soaked up the sunshine. It wasn’t perfection, but it was darn well close. Almost like a God-ordained weekly taste of heaven.
Bryan and I looked at each other in wonder: “God intended us to feel like this for a day EVERY week?!”
We realized that we had been missing out on some of God’s kindness. We didn’t want to any more.
I’ve started thinking about the concept that God alone is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. He is all-present. He is all-knowing. He is all-powerful. I was malfunctioning because something in me was feeling the pressure to be those things too. The Lord is the Creator and Sustainer of all. Not me.
The choice to rest in the face of deadlines and societal pressures is the choice to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. It is worship.
It is a weekly remembrance that the universe will continue on unscathed by my choice to sit still. The world does not rest on my shoulders, but on the Lord’s. He can handle that kind of pressure. We surely cannot.
I will include here a link to a podcast series from Bridgetown Church in Portland that we have been listening to. It has given us so much to consider in regards to R E S T and the concept of a Sabbath practice. I encourage you to listen, take it in and begin considering how you can also find rest for your soul. (Full disclosure: we have not listened to beyond the fourth episode in this series yet, but from what we’ve gleaned so far, I suspect you will not be disappointed!) You can also find these podcast episodes over on Apple Podcasts.
Sabbath Podcast Series:
Thank you, Pastor John Mark and Bridgetown for the work you have put in to spreading knowledge about this crucial topic!