Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sabbath Experiement: Why We Need Rest

This is the second of a three-part series about our family's journey in experimenting with taking a day of rest every week.

Sabbath Experiment: Part One: Who has Time to Rest, Really? {signs of needing a sabbath}

This week, Suzannah of So Much Shouting So Much Laughter and I have collaborated our thoughts on why we've found we need this weekly deep rest; we've color coded our words, with Suzannah in teal and Hyacynth in green.

"How are you?" they ask.

"Busy!" we reply, wearing weariness like a badge.

We live in an era of constant motion. Overscheduled and underslept, we're running on empty, tethered to the technology that promised to ease our lives but somehow delivered more obligations.

A wearer of the busy badge front and center on my chest, I've long wished for 26-hour days, daydreaming about an added two hours to each day, giving me the time I need to {fill in the blank}. I can assure the word "rest" was not on my list of words for that blank.

Before my family began the Sabbath Experiment, I constantly wondered why I couldn't fit all of our activities into a seven-day time period.

Why couldn't I have a super-clean house, healthy, home-cooked meals, head up a few different organizations, spend time with the family and read my Bible all while doing things I enjoy?

I saw other women who looked like they were successfully doing it, so what was my problem? Why couldn't I keep it all together and smile through it all?

We were created for so much more than the rat race. When we set aside a day to rest, we acknowledge that God is in control, and the world does not revolve around us or our efforts.

Sabbath-keeping, at its heart, is about humility. It's a command, but more than that, the sabbath is a gift and a blessing.

Sabbath exists to honor the God who rested from creation, but it is for us, too: God desires to renew his people, replacing our worry with joy.

As we rest from work and take time for recreation, we are re-created by God, who refreshes and prepares us anew for continued work and ministry. When we set aside a day for worship, play, and rest, we allow God to fulfill his promises to us:

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 58:13-14)

After reading His promise regarding Sabbath, I've no longer found it ironic that our family had actually gained more time thought we'd essentially erased a day from our calendar every week by designating it as a day for rest.

We now have more time to laugh. More time to nap, recharge for the week to come. More time to enjoy each other. And even more time during the week to fulfill those commitments I'd been struggling to accomplish.

Of course, Sabbath essentially has forced me weekly to re-examine commitments. I've really had to prioritize my days and engage in the most important interactions -- which then leaves little time for idle distractions that seek to lure me away from what I've deemed most important.

Practicing Sabbath means committing to intentional living daily; it means having a decided heart about what actually is most important in life because there simply isn't time to dip our fingers into the shallow pools of the unimportant.

In the whittling down of commitments, I'd also discovered another reason I couldn't fit all of life into a week's time frame: My life rhythm was off.

I was essentially trying to dance a four-step salsa to two-beat song, neglecting sleep, relaxation and just plain time well spent with the people I loved. Enjoyment of life was fleeting and replaced often with shoulds and musts, as I hurried from one activity to another, sporadically entering into the fullness of each moment and the beauty found in the everyday.

God, our Father, gave us an example of what our life rhythms are to look like, and rest coupled with enjoyment was part of His example:

"And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation." Genesis 2: 2-3

Our all-mighty Creator didn't abandon work on the seventh day because He was too weary to continue; rather, he was modeling enjoyment -- the breathing in of His vibrantly colored sunsets, delicate flowers, turquoise seas -- all things we miss when we're too busy trying to do it all, be it all.

He was showing us a rhythm -- our life rhythm.

In surrendering our schedules and priorities, God pours out the thing our grasping hands cannot reach alone, no matter how far or fast we run.

Joy is found in the ancient practice of sabbath-keeping. A balm to the world-weary soul.

Part Three of the Sabbath Experiment: How to make Sabbath a Reality: A Simple Guide will be published, hopefully, next Monday. :)