How difficult can it be to rest?
We all need it from time-to-time.
Athletes know they need a rest day so their bodies can rebuilt tissue and energy. Even land needs to lie fallow, or rest, for a season to regain fertility.
And yet, many of us experience a drive-ness to work continually. Rest is often viewed as a weakness rather than a strength; a distraction rather than a necessity; a sin rather than a blessing; a liability rather than a gift.
I've already identified a problem with entering rest in a previous blog.
Here are five crucial factors I've discovered to move into rest. For what it's worth they're arranged in order of vowels: a, e, i, o, u.
1. Acknowledging the invitation of rest. Although I ended the preceding post with this point, it bears repeating.
We heard Jesus saying, "Let's go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31 NLT). And we noticed the "ourselves": Jesus was going to rest with his followers.
My God and Savior wants me to enjoy rest!
But what about those people who demand, circumstances that press, and 'voices' that accuse, when we don't work more?
In a deliberate and tangible way we need to acknowledge the invitation to rest. For me, I claim a season of rest by speaking aloud a prayer in words such as:
"Father, you care for my well-being and desire that I experience rest in the rhythms of healthy living. I acknowledge that you give me permission – body and soul – to enjoy this season of rest. Thank you for this gift."
2. Emancipation which is a freedom from driven-ness with its demands, burdens, controls and soul-destroying busyness. Jesus calls to those in this place with these words:
"Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 NLT).
Of course there are times of emergency when we cannot turn our backs on a plea for help. Jesus speaks to this as well. In one incident, Jesus was criticized for healing a man on the Sabbath – the Hebrew word for "rest." To those who distorted and enforced the Jewish Sabbath he said:
"If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn't you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:11-12 NLT)
Just beware of having such "emergencies" all the time for they will erode the whole concept of enjoying necessary seasons of rest. Ask whether the situation is truly an emergency or is simply urgent or demanding? The urgent can be delayed; a genuine emergency cannot.
A real season of rest is a time of freedom from. Walter Bruggemann states that “... Sabbath means desisting from the frantic pursuit of securing the world on our own terms.”
3. Intention is necessary if we are to enter into a season of rest.
For the Jewish people, Sabbath occurs on a certain day of the week. Sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is their weekly Sabbath. How they spend that day of rest is regulated. In some cases the Sabbath became encrusted with rules and regulations that undermined the concept of genuine rest.
When you enter a season of rest here are a few questions to make you intentional in a wholesome sense. I begin with "why" and "what" as the primary questions.
Sometimes it is necessary simply to eat, sleep, and exercise moderately to regain health. This appears to be the case with Elijah when he fled to the wilderness (1 Kings 19:1-8).
If possible, be as specific as possible about your purpose – the "why." It will act as an anchor to ensure the quality of the season of rest will not drift away or be lost.
The "why" will also direct you to, and put boundaries around, the "what" of your rest. For instance, on one occasion my family went on a three (3) month sabbatical to be freed from practising law and be freed for Christian service of a different kind.
How can we readily enter into rest if the location is associated with work? One person may have to get away from the workshop because it is the place of daily labor; whereas another may find rest and delight in the creative activities of a workshop.
Your answers to these questions will give direction for answering "how" and with "whom." Your answers provide structure to being intentional about enjoying your season of rest.
4. Open-ness, by which I mean freedom for or to something or someone in a season of rest.
For some of us, a Sabbath of any length is like stepping off a gerbil wheel. We can move or not; we can look around; we can think and dream about something else; we can enjoy life "outside the wheel."
These times can be amazing openings for us. We end up seeing there is actually a whole world out here.
Mark Anderson, a friend, has written that “Sabbath living is the celebration of God’s wonderful provision which means this day, I get to do what I want to do, not what I have to do to secure my future.”
After a sabbatical many people return to their work with renewed vigor and vision; others never return to their old ways of living. A season of rest has given them the space to consider new things, and to be creative.
A season of rest is an invitation to be free for and to other things.
I suppose this is linked with emancipation – freedom from – but it merits this additional practical note.
In our world of electronic noise and busyness, unplugging from the internet and e-mails seems to be impossible. Others view it as unplugging from a life-support system.
Recently, we spent nine nights in a rustic cabin. It had all we needed: running water and electricity and a beach on the ocean. It didn't have cell-phone reception or internet connection.
At first I was itching to open the laptop and check the mail, or the news, or whatever. Eventually, the urge evaporated.
Nine days without internet? You say, "Impossible." I now say, "Delightful!"
Of course, those real emergencies may occur. In our case, the phone number of the manager was available to family so we could be reached if it was necessary. It wasn't.
Working on resting – five crucial factors:
What do you have to add? What are your experiences?
Until next Friday,
John, a brother
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