I don't know much about you, but I can guess that you need rest.
The Bible talked about rest before we were even around—calling it holy. The first thing God called holy wasn't a person or an animal, a star or a plant; it was a day, a wedge of time (Genesis 2:3).
On the seventh day of creation, God came to a halt (Genesis 1:31-2:3). Free from productivity, the God of Israel opened a palace of time*, walked in, and put his feet up.
Imagine a sparkling palace of rest, created for you, with a bed, an easy chair, an afghan, and a hot bath.
In our busy American world, taking it easy is only for the wealthy and the lazy. The rest of us have work, families, young children, sick relatives, churches, hobbies, and vacation time we're storing up. We do not have time to rest.
Most of us believe rest is for the weary and faint, the overwhelmed, the sick or depressed. We rest because we're forced into it, not because we're invited.
Or perhaps we turn down the Sabbath rest invitation because we're not sure what a restful day (without a beach and a cabana) would look like. How do you rest in the clutter of home? Isn't true rest like good sex, something you have to go on vacation to find?
The reason most of us don't rest is because we're not convinced rest is as spiritual as God made it out to be.
But It Isn't Productive!
It's easier to pray, fast, or give to the poor than to rest. I can point to that time as productive, focused, self-disciplined. It's easier to attend church, take a missionary trip, even to love my enemy, than it is to rest.
We forget that rest is a commandment, lodged in the Ten Commandments, sandwiched between idolatry and murder. God was so concerned with his people resting that he sent extra manna the day before the Sabbath so the Israelites could have breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed.
When I choose to accept God's invitation to enter the palace of time, I feel almost gluttonous. I've successfully sworn off computer, commerce, meetings, laundry, and errands, and wrestled with boredom. I've watched the chickadees scatter seed on the snow, my son scatter his toys around us, and the dishes pile up.
What Resting Looks Like
Have you ever wondered what resting would look like for you? Ask yourself, "What feels like work to me?"
Then make a list. Here's what mine included:
- responding to e-mails
- designing a PowerPoint presentation
- cleaning toilets
- washing dishes
- any cleaning
- going online
- going out to eat
Then comes the fun question, "What would I do if all my work was done?" Of course, this requires a stretch of the imagination, but visualize that all the items on the first list were completed. An empty inbox, a paper turned in, a sparkling toilet, a clear counter, stocked shelves.
Okay, take it.
When you wake up, fight the urge to feel guilty, and ask yourself again, "What would I do if all my work was done?"
- take a walk
- spontaneously play with my son, even if it means crawling around the house and getting dog hair all over my knees
- a long, hot bath
- sit on the porch in the rocking chair
- read poetry over lunch
- slowly, carefully make macaroni and cheese
- read Scripture slowly, maybe just two verses
Each Sabbath rest requires that I overlook the things that working women everywhere feel obliged to fix or guilty about not fixing: hairy floors, piles of snow, foody dishes, overflowing inboxes, ringing phones.
I used to preach regularly on the values of Sabbath and wry mothers would confront me, "I want to see you rest when you have a kid!"
So I offer my failed attempts and counter them with this new-mom discovery: You can rest easier with a pint-sized munchkin showing you how. I can do most of my list, with a one-year-old traipsing, splashing, crawling around, guiding me to become absorbed in rest.
Kids even nap sometimes, proving to me that they get this commandment better than we do.
Borrowed from Abraham Heschel's "A palace of time," The Sabbath