It’s ironic but I’ve discovered that resting can be hard work. It does not come naturally to me. I might step out of the office and leave the building, but I’ll still take my work with me in my mind – thinking over sermons, wondering about particular people, planning meetings and church events. My body might be out of town, but sometimes it takes two or three days before my brain begins its vacation. And often a day or two before our scheduled return, my brain already begins thinking it’s back in the office. Just because you or I say we’re resting or just because it looks like we’re resting, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are!
Taking a break is not easy. It means letting go, and I have a hard time doing that. I want to stay involved (read: I don’t want to be out of the loop or not in control). I want to be continually productive (read: I don’t want to disappoint people or have them think I’m lazy).
Nevertheless God tells me to take a break, to engage in Sabbath rest as directed in the 4th Commandment, which says: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy… On it you shall not do any work…” In his mercy, God does not want to watch me burn out, even if it’s by doing good and worthwhile things. My physical and emotional health is important to God.
But I think even more importantly, in telling me to rest, God is inviting me to trust. He reminds me that the world will not spin off its axis if I take a break. Sabbath rest teaches me to recognize and resist when and where I am trying too hard on my own to secure my future without trusting God or sensing his presence. When I slow down and stop, I am assured afresh that God is in control. Rest keeps things in perspective.
I like Mark Buchanan’s double definition of Sabbath. In his book The Rest of God, he has the familiar definition that it is a day, typically Sunday in the Protestant tradition. But he also defines Sabbath as an attitude:
A Sabbath heart is restful even in the middle of unrest and upheaval. It is attentive to the presence of God and others even in the welter of much coming and going, rising and falling. It is still and knows God even when mountains fall into the sea. You will never enter the Sabbath day without a Sabbath heart.
It often does not come naturally, but part of trusting God means resting and observing Sabbath – Sabbath moments, Sabbath days, Sabbath seasons. It lets God be God. And it helps me be better at being the me God wants me to be.
I wrote about this back in July 2015
and adapted it for the Perspectives column
in the Rock Valley Bee a couple weeks ago.