Sabbath and Rest Spiritual Growth

Working from a Place of Rest

So, I bought a new calendar/planner and I’ve been watching productivity webinars, reading articles about time management and even starting a new program to “Make Over my Evenings.” I’m on a current mission to make the most of the time I’ve been given.

stopwatch

I don’t know about you, but I can get both busy and distracted way too easily.  I have seasons when my “yes” answers can roll out without thinking.  Then, as I sit down to accomplish whatever I said “yes” to, I start into something else pressing, drop that and move to something else.  Oh me, oh my.  Hopefully you are not wired this way.  The trouble is, when I take on too many things, they line up in my mind like so many dogs, nipping and yipping at me.  I start to attend to one and the other bites me for my lack of attention.  The fact that I get a lot of things accomplished is a mystery to me.  People sometimes comment, “How do you do it all?”  Oh, if there were a formula!  I have cultivated one particular habit which has served me well and I’ll share it here.  I don’t want to discuss productivity for its own sake.  That’s like eating a bowl of raw salt.  Yuck.  As an ingredient in something yummy, I’ll take my salt, but to eat it solo, not so much.  The unexpected habit fueling my productivity happens to be rest.

salt with food

It might seem contrary to dive into a discussion about productivity by bringing up rest, but actually, the most productive people on the planet rest regularly and effectively.  More importantly, God rested.  “Yeah, yeah,” you say, “… on the seventh day and all that.”  Yes.  Take a moment and really think about it.  Why did a God, self-sustained, with no beginning and no end, who never sleeps and never slumbers, rest?  Why would He “need” rest?  If He doesn’t “need” it, why did He take it?  And, why on earth did He declare it “holy” (Ex 20:8)? – Holy, as in set apart, sacred, for God alone, pure and cleansed.  My take on this after seeking to grow in my understanding and practice of rest for years is that God rested to enjoy all He had made.  God stopped and surveyed His work and He said, “It is good,” and then, “It is very good.”  If God stopped for 24hours to reflect on the goodness of His work and to enjoy all He had made, we ought to do the same.  As Tim Keller says,

We need to stop to enjoy God, to enjoy his creation, to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The whole point of Sabbath is joy in what God has done.

Don’t you just love Tim Keller?  I do.  His teaching reaches my soul.  If you want to read more of his thoughts on taking sabbath, this article is great.  Rest is a gift from God.  As Dallas Willard often pointed out, rest is a spiritual discipline.  It won’t come to us.  We have to pursue it.  He often said, “If you go to read scripture or pray and you find yourself falling asleep, go rest.  Then return to your other discipline once you are rested.”  What a word of grace and wisdom!  We can’t be fully present for any work – especially the good work of attending to God in Word and prayer, without being well rested.

rest - pillows

What happens when we don’t rest?  An object in motion can tend to stay in motion, yes?  Sadly, in our American culture (and around the world as the epidemic of ceaseless productivity spreads), we exonerate busyness and workaholism.  To be perpetually on the go seems to be “better” than stepping back.  We read about minimalism, simplifying and letting opportunity pass us by, but we don’t give out awards for those difficult, counter-cultural movements.  We praise the executive who never came home for supper, but landed the big account.  We praise the athlete who devotes himself to his sport while cheating on his wife and drinking excessively at social functions.  We praise the student who signs up for every extracurricular activity and is head of every club in High School.  Judge our values by our applause – we love busyness.  Sloth is considered one of the seven deadly sins (rightly so) but busyness (having its roots in other sins of pride of life or gluttony) has trumped sloth in our age.  Compulsive busyness begets burn out.  We lose intimacy as we pursue acknowledgement for our accomplishments.  We lose perspective as we roll forward without a brake pedal.  We long for more depth, yet we spread ourselves too thin.

blur on street

What’s the answer to all this frenetic activity?  Judith Shulevitz, a writer for the NY Times and author of Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time, says:

… interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction.

If we are going to overcome busyness, we have to work to do it.  Swimming upstream means going against a current which pulls at us with force.  Salmon need their run {other salmon}.  We need one another.  We must resolve to rest.  We must plan to rest.  We must encourage one another to rest.  We can’t just give up when we don’t get this right the first time.  Keep at it.  You’ll get better.  Then worse.  Then better than before.  If God made rest one of His top ten, you might consider making it a priority as well.
I’m just sayin’.

Here’s the beauty.  The more I get in the hang of resting well and regularly, the more I find my life to be … productive.  Yep.  Crazy thing.  When I take time off, I come back renewed.  I have the perspective I lose so easily when I just barrel forward without pausing.  I know what needs to be first, second and third, etc.  I feel full of goodness and joy when I rest in God for a day and then I come at any task with more awareness of what matters to Him and a greater sensitivity to His presence with me.  As counter-intuitive as it seems, rest leads to productivity.  We begin to approach our work from a place of rest.  We aren’t just buzzing around like a bee flitting from flower to flower.  We are anchored and our work proceeds from a peaceful place of purpose in our hearts.
Good stuff, huh?

bee in flower

So, I’ll close this post by sharing another gem from Tim Keller.  He sums it up in a nutshell:

The purpose of Sabbath is not simply to rejuvenate yourself in order to do more production, nor is it the pursuit of pleasure. The purpose of Sabbath is to enjoy your God, life in general, what you have accomplished in the world through his help, and the freedom you have in the gospel—the freedom from slavery to any material object or human expectation. The Sabbath is a sign of the hope that we have in the world to come.


Are you weary of the habitrail lifestyle, constantly doing more than you feel you can handle?  I encourage you to swim upstream.  Start carving out times of rest and dare to break away from striving and all the “yes” answers to opportunities.  Once a week, allow yourself to step back and delight in God and all He has done.  If that seems too radical, go for once a month and build up.  You can do this.  I love, love, love to hear your thoughts.  Join the conversation here or comment on the Hearts Homeward Facebook page.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Michelle Waldrip
    May 9, 2016 at 12:10 PM

    Yes, yes, yes! I like to do this. I want to do this more. It’s just a challenge not to let things eat into the time, or to only take the time to rest when you’re ready to fall asleep sitting up. “Stopping to smell the roses” – or to see a sunset, or to cuddle your kids, or to pray a prayer of joy and thanks for what is all around can’t be overestimated! Love the post, Patty! 🙂

  • Reply
    Patty
    May 9, 2016 at 12:49 PM

    Thanks, Michelle,
    I”m so glad this resonated with you. I think learning to rest is a lot like dusting. Seems we get things all tidy and they way we like them and we have to go back at it again. Busyness comes in like dust – often covering what really matters. I celebrate your efforts to rest and slow for what matters!

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