What reeks havoc in the typical American home? Greed? Anger? Anxiety? The TV remote?
It's time. There's never enough and the daily grind of hurry, exhaustion, and overload is extracting a price that is unraveling our homes, our hearts, and our hunger for God. Too many of us are positioned to self-destruct.
When asked, "How are you?" our answer is no longer, "Fine," but "Busy." It's the ruthless badge of honor we proudly wear as Christian women. We're loving the Lord, caring for our families, serving our corner of the world, right? But far from running the race with joy, we're sporting a self-imposed limp, puttering and sputtering along on the fumes of a dangerously depleted tank.
Deep within, when no one is around, we silently whisper, Is this all there is?
Night and day. Winter and summer. Hardwired into the fabric of creation is the rhythm of life—of rest and productivity. Modern technology has created a culture with no rhythm. It's on, it's loud, and its lure is relentless. Most of us have been swept into a way of life that no longer honors the God-given rhythms of life—much less abundant life. The rhythms of rest, far from being an outdated relic from antiquity, may be the very thing waiting to revive our withered, weary souls.
While growing up in a Christian family, for me the rhythm of rest called Sabbath entailed going to church, eating pot roast, and not mowing the lawn. With our obligations fulfilled, the rest of the day was ours to do with as we pleased, which in my family meant work: wash the car, send birthday cards, and weed the garden—whatever didn't get done on Saturday. The ability to work is a gift from our Creator. So is rest. Not only was it created in the heart of God, it's the first thing he called holy (Genesis 2:3). The rhythm of work and rest is the rhythm of life. One without the other is like a clanging cymbal in our ears—and in God's. Our job is to break the vice grip that our 24/7 culture has on us and begin to embrace the hard work of rest—which is the holy work of God.
Rest in the 21st Century
My journey into rest began more than 20 years ago, and it's been a roller coaster. Acting out of sheer obedience to the 4th Commandment (once I swallowed hard and admitted I'd been neglecting it my entire life), I moved into Sabbath-keeping kicking and screaming. It was, for many years, the worst day of my week. Having derived my value as a human being from what I could efficiently accomplish in any given day, I had no idea how to let down and relax. After many tiresome years, Marva Dawn's Keeping the Sabbath Wholly helped me see rest as a gift to be unwrapped, not a fate to endure. She painted a riveting and scripturally grounded picture; she cast a vision for a day of restoration that far exceeded my days of washing cars and eating pot roast.
Since that time, I've embarked on a journey into the rhythms of rest. The Bible speaks about a number of rhythms: daily, weekly, yearly. Allowed free reign in my life, they have transformed, revived, and sculpted me inside and out. Driven and passionate, I would not be here today without them. Learning how to rest well has allowed me to run hard. I continue to break a sweat each day, but now I do it with a lot more joy.
Where Do I Begin?
Are you ready to take a step in the right direction? Pray for God to open your eyes to the way you spend your time throughout the week. Then stay alert for some time when you could move things around and rest. All you need is an hour to start!
Then like a mama bear, guard that hour to make it guilt-free. Use it to rest. If you can manage two hours, even better! If you're a mom, get creative and create some kid-free time—somehow. Ask another mom to watch your kids for that hour. Unplug completely. (Don't answer the phone!) Lounge. Nap. Get outside. Take a walk. Breathe deeply. Listen to the birds. Be aware of the tension in your neck and shoulders. Do something that delights you.
As you allow yourself this time to catch your breath, keep this truth before you: I am participating in what God calls holy.
Run hard. Rest well.
Brenda Jank is director of personal retreat ministries at Camp Lutherhaven in Indiana.