“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – Jesus
”So far this afternoon, I’ve made pasta salad and broiled salmon for lunch, made deviled eggs and cut up watermelon for a church wiener roast tonight, made homemade applesauce, washed dishes, swept and mopped the kitchen floor, and finished a knitting project. Maybe I can catch some Sabbath rest at the Wiener roast!”
A friend kindly pointed out to me that Sabbath was on Saturday, not Sunday. My internal response was a snarky, “Saturday. Sunday. Whenever it is, it’s not happening.”
It was a busy day on top of a busy week. The week following a week of out-of-town guests would only be busier. You know the old adage, you work twice as hard before vacation to get ready then have to work twice as hard when you get back from vacation to catch up?
I was exhausted.
Do you ever get that way? Life is full of good things, full to the brim. You don’t want to complain but . . . you’re tired. You’re exhausted. God made man for the Sabbath; women are supposed to suck in their lower lip and keep trudging. Well, that’s another of my internal snarky come-backs. I’m so glad God invented grace.
God did have a good idea when He created Sabbath. Out of compassion for the creatures He’d created, He set an example of rest. Not a time for naps. Rest. A time to regroup, restore, and recharge. And He wanted to be part of the equation.
If we get stuck on the outer obedience to observation of the day, we miss the point. That’s what the Pharisses did. Stuck on the day, they didn’t catch the need to step outside of ourselves and do good for others. Jesus believed in rest. He’s the guy who said, “Come to me . . . and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28). When the Twelve had finished their first tour of duty and Jesus received the heartbreaking news about the death of his cousin John, he told the guys, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest (Mk 6:31).”
When life demands our time and energy, it’s easy to say, “Oh well. Sorry, God. Maybe next week.” The point about Sabbath rest is, God wants us to be intentional. My intentional rest was anything but intentional. My concept of rest was collapsing on the couch in the evening and playing multiple games of Free Cell while feeling guilty about the pile of dirty dishes and other undone tasks.
As I wearily penned my goals for the week following the departure of my company, I found myself dreading the days. I had done too much too fast. So, in my Day Planner on Tuesday for that week, from 1 to 3 p.m., I penned, not penciled, “Intentional Rest.”
1. It’s scheduled. I kept that commitment as seriously as if I had a meeting to attend. When my husband asked me to go somewhere with him, I told him I already had plans and couldn’t join him in the activity he wanted me to do.
2. It’s planned, not impulsive. Before I entered my time of rest, I chose what I was going to do, where I was going to be, and what I was not going to do. If I could, I would have left my home and gone to a place that I find restorative like walking the banks of the Mississippi River or along a towpath trail in northern Ohio. Since those weren’t options, I staked a claim on the living room couch and stayed there for two hours.
3. It’s unproductive. I struggle with equating my personal value with my level of productivity. If I’m not accomplishing something, I’m not doing my part. This is frankly wrong. As I considered what to do during my Intentional Rest, I realized part of the rest needed to be in my attitude. It was ok to do things as long as I wasn’t goal-driven. The only goal was that whatever I did would renew my energy. So I lay on the couch with my dogs. I may have slept; I don’t remember. I knit, but I erased the need to knit so many rows. I just reveled in the softness of the yarn and the pattern design and thought wonderful thoughts about the person for whom I’m making the afghan. I loaded my CD player with favorite classical music, taking time to leisurely mull over CD titles and tracks.
4. It’s time spent with God. Like any other part of life, God wants to be involved in our Sabbath rest. This is tricky. So much of my life revolves around planning Bible Studies, loving God’s people, writing blogs about God’s grace, and organizing church programs. I needed to back off and just “be” with my Lord. I needed to curtail my brain and not “think.” That’s not easy to do! Any song, any prayer, any thought kicks my spiritual ADD into high gear and I think things like, “Oh, that would be a good song for next Sunday’s worship” or “I could write about that.” Turn it off, Karen. So for this intentional rest period, I basically said. “Here I am God. Restore and renew me.” It was one of those wonderful times we sometimes spend with our spouses; both rocking in comfortable silence, not saying anything but enjoying each other’s presence. God was there and I just enjoyed being aware that He was there.
I’ve just begun this journey of intentional rest. I realize I need work in disciplining my mind to let things go. I need to focus more on God’s partnership during my rest periods. I need to carve out more time than just two hours. Baby steps. Progress. Just doing it. That’s where we start.
So get out your calendar and grab a pen. When can you work in a time of intentional rest? How will you spend your Sabbath? How will you restore your energy?
Plan to do it and involve the Lord God in whatever you choose to do. Relax in His presence and worship Him for all He has done for you. That’s intentional rest. That’s Sabbath rest as God made it to be.