Learning to Rest – Reflections on the Sabbath

“Learning to rest is a skill. It is also an act of faith rooted in the belief that God is at work when you are not.”

– Rev. Dr. Esau McCaulley

Being productive feels good, and when you are busy, you feel productive; so many people, including myself, elevate the importance of being busy.  

But what if our need to be busy is counter-productive to our growth as believers in God?

What if our system of assigning value to our days is warped by other people’s expectations of our level of production, rather than whether a day is nourishing to our own life?

The book of genesis starts with a story about God creating all that exists and resting on the 7th day as God proclaimed that what had been created was good. Throughout the years, the followers of God have sought to keep this seventh day as a time to rest and to reflect on the blessings of God.  Although, with the exception of having church services on a Sunday, many of us are only reminded that it is supposed to be a day of rest when we crave something from chic-fil-a and then realize that it is closed. 

I struggle to rest because the idea of resting, to remove myself from what I feel like I have to do for a period of time, causes me to be restless.  The wonders of modern technology allow me to send emails, write sermons, communicate with staff, and review the monthly financial reports from the comfort of my home, on an iPad, or even a cell phone…so why not do a little work right now?  It’ll only take a minute. 

When I go on vacation, I have to deactivate email notifications on my phone, and sometimes remove the app from my phone for that week, just to avoid the temptation to work when I am supposed to be resting. Certainly, there are times when I need to work; emergencies come up, and you have to handle them if no one else is able to, but not many people in my age bracket are good at stopping our work since we have the ability to work on the go with mobile devices, and have been doing so for a large chunk of our career.  Still, I have to force myself to rest on my vacation, and even during my regular week.

 I have to learn that rest is both a skill, and an act of faith. 

When we learn to rest, we are rewiring our brains to acknowledge that some things can wait until later. 

When we learn to rest, we are reorienting our life to be more about our quality of life, and less about our performance in the workforce, or the perfection of our lawn, or house cleaning. 

When we force ourselves to rest, we are surrendering to God the things that we cannot control for the purpose of observing how God is going to meet us in our rest and to show us that God is always at work around us to make what is not good, good. 

So while it’s hard for me to silence some notifications, to step away from my task sheet, to read a book, to spend hours with the bible, in prayer, or in meditative reflection on the beauty of God…if I refuse to see this time that God wants me to have as necessary, then I live as though I doubt that God is powerful enough to handle things while I’m away, taking a nap, or gone fishing. 

As summer comes to a close, vacations tend to lessen until the week of Christmas. School schedules will cause spikes in errands to do, things to order, and times in the car. But we can’t wait several months to rest, even if we take labor day off. We have to remember the Sabbath, and to keep it Holy, because it is when we rest that we realize just how active God has always been. 


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