Originally published Saturday, 03 September 2022.
Summer vacation is quickly sailing away, and with it the moments dedicated to pursuing rest, adventure, and connection. As I look back on this summer, it is easy to wonder where the sunsets and sunrises went. Packed into the summer were days “off” and trips away, but it was basically being busy in a new location.
We fervently checked off the items on our summer “bucket list”: go to Saturday Market, check. Read a book, check. Hike, celebrate Anniversary, go berry picking, swim often, go to the beach, check, check, check. Yet, cramming in these restful activities has somehow created the opposite result. I lost the rest in my resting. How is it that I feel the need for a vacation from vacationing?
I’m tempted to scratch out “September” on my calendar and instead write in bold sharpie: GET STUFF DONE. No other season tempts the part of me that is a recovering perfectionist more than fall. Between color-coded school supplies and an uptick in scheduled activities for the various members of the family is a deceptive little lie: Getting stuff done is the most important thing. Productivity speaks to your worth.
It is so subtle. Just a shade off. For a long time, I didn’t realize that my life was dictated by a false value system that signed me up for all the good things. The Christianized version of this culture of productivity: Doing more for/with God is the most important thing. You are worthwhile and more loved based on how much you get done. If alarms aren’t sounding warning in your mind yet, be aware, because this lie is pervasive and harmful. The absence of rest leaves weary, unconnected, striving souls wondering why the very activity they pursued has left them feeling captive.
Something in our humanity requires rest. Our need for sleep on a regular basis is a signal that we are not self-sufficient. Pushing through a few all-nighters is different than simply not needing to sleep. Most people have experienced the crankiness of a child (or even yourself) that is quickly reset with a nap and a snack. Though we may deny it or pretend we are now somehow superior to previous generations, the need for rest has only grown as our reliance on technology and time-saving methods have increased.
Our creator knows this about us. “Then he [Jesus] said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’”-Mark 2:27
The God who formed the universe and created humankind built into us a need for rest. He also created a system of rest for His people described in several places in the Old Testament that was referenced by Jesus during his time on earth. By no means am I an advocate of legalistic law-keeping—Jesus has fulfilled everything. However, the one who made us knows how we operate. He created regular rhythms of rest: a weekly Sabbath, Every 7th year a Sabbath year, and every 50th year an additional year off (Leviticus 25). During these times no work was to be done. The time was set aside to worship God in order to practice reliance. A day to remember that God is sufficient to meet any and all needs. A year in an agrarian society in which they did not plant, produce, or in modern-day terms “hustle”. Each half-century, a reset occurred: Debts were forgiven, people freed from indentured servitude, land redistributed by family once again.
I cannot even rest for a whole week on vacation without feeling the need to busy myself. What would a whole community at rest for an entire year look like? There is so much to learn from the practice of habitually resting.
Regular, Planned Timeframes
People tend to rest when forced. An illness, exhaustion, or panic attack signals that the human body is outside of the realm of optimal conditions. Rest is the only answer. We not only need rest for our bodies but also emotional and spiritual rest.
Rather than running us down, God provided regular times for this rest to occur. Today, we must fight for that rest ahead of time as we schedule our lives. Or, prayerfully rest for a time, perhaps months, or a year rather than climbing the corporate ladder or making a big move.
At Risk Of…
In their day the risk of loss in productivity was actually food to feed their families. In comparison, I have little to lose. Productivity matters little in the light of eternity. Each of us has things that are ours to do, and we strive to use the days God has given us well. But He made us for rest, any task before us is done within that understanding.
One excuse to forgo resting is the never-ending competition. Surely someone else will get ahead if I stop and rest. In Biblical times this problem was a non-issue because the entire community would be at rest together. No one planting. No one working. I imagine a lot more time chatting around the fire took place. As well as time dedicated to learning what God had to say and remembering His goodness to them in the past years.
This aspect is harder to replicate. I have a hard time imagining what it could look like. From the outside looking in, those who know Jesus should be known for being at rest.
In the end, reliance on God rather than ourselves is what rest really comes down to. It tests our true beliefs when we must act. Will it really be ok if I take a day off? Will the school be at risk because I chose not to be on the PTA? Why do I think the world revolves around me anyway?
When I stop, God continues to keep the world spinning. My heart still beats. Rather than seeing the hustle, I see the beauty. I see the people He has placed before me to love. I see the great masterpiece of creation. I see the adventure He is calling me into. In rest there is quiet enough to hear Him again.
Holly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives.