For some, working hard is a much more difficult discipline to learn than slowing down. In Jewish tradition, the people were given by God a framework for their lives, in which they would set aside a whole day each week: the Sabbath. They would work relentlessly through the six days prior in preparation for this holy pause, illustrated by God himself in Genesis. This glorious rest found in this day was not just earned by the hard work, but made possible by it – for how can we know ‘asleep’ if we have not spent our energy on ‘awake’?
When we moved into Beth-Biri almost a year ago, we decided we would commit to keeping a Sabbath day. As I had sought out rest in the midst of pioneering and working hard over the couple of years leading up to the move, I found I would regularly collide with exhaustion – whether physical, emotional or spiritual. I had trialled many different strategies in seeking rest. For a time, I decided to incorporate it on the daily, assuring myself I would make room for the quiet every day, and that it would sustain me. I tried ‘going hard’ until this holiday, I tried saying ‘no’ on the regular, and I tried just winging it. Jael and I had spoken about setting aside a Sabbath day for a long time – and I, with all of my over-commitments, refused the idea. I questioned God, “How in the world will I carry these things you have placed in my hands?” Foreseeing a stretching of my capacity, I understood the invitation to do things differently – specifically, to set aside a whole day for the purpose of rest.
And so began the unraveling of my busy mind and heart, and the unlearning of a fast-paced world. When I forced myself into this ‘day of rest’, it felt more like I had slammed on the breaks in the middle of an Autobahn highway. I feared the aftermath of the sudden halt, and its effects on my routines, habits and never-ending to-do list. My familiarity with this celebrated and normalised way of living busy paralysed and confused me, and I soon understood that ‘rest’ was a skill in which I was seriously unpractised – and now was the time to develop it within my heart. Each week, as our Monday Sabbath rolled around, I attempted new rhythms and paces through the day, and I found that the discovery of sustainability in this space would be a process.
After my first few failed attempts at slowing down, I sat to reflect, asking myself where I had gone wrong. Each time, as I found the early evening approaching, my heart grieved over the day so surprisingly slipping through my fingers. Where I had sought out peace, anxiety was beckoning my soul into its unsteady territory. I counted all the beautiful ways I had spent my hours – having coffee with friends, making fresh chutney, learning songs, doing puzzles – and found I was simply busying myself with another list of non-urgent tasks and good ideas. Could it be that in my pursuit of making room for creativity and fun activities within my Sabbath day, I had run out of time to actually rest? When I eventually ticked off all of the ‘fun’ items on my to-do list, I was led by my Best Friend into the understanding that my priorities needed to be rewritten.
“Come to ME, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
In my heart, I knew that my intentionality in seeking sufficient time and space with God was lacking. My greatest breakthrough in cultivating rest through my day came in prioritising the feeding of my spirit. My body, my social life and my ‘fun tank’ were fed the largest portions of my time, while my soul was given only the leftovers and remainders – producing a starving spirit that would linger and grow as my week continued on. Jesus deserves our time and full attention, and when we give it to Him, we are never left in lack. It didn’t mean I had to begin rising before the sun to pray, or turn away every other idea for the day – but it meant that He was my number one priority. And so, the rhythm I have found best, is deciding what part of my day would be wholly and completely His. Sometimes, this looks like lying on the floor journaling, and other days it looks like going for a bike ride adventure with Him, giving Him room to speak, and for me to respond in love.
My next lesson was in learning to read my body. I found that sleeping in late was only confusing my body for the remainder of the week, where as getting up early was sometimes just as irresponsible. Some days I discovered that physically I simply had to stop and give myself permission to take a day off of my exercise routine, whereas on others, I found that going for a run was what my body required most! Loosen your expectations of yourself on Sabbath – and ask the Father to reveal to you what your body truly needs.
Lastly, one of my greatest gifts in relearning rest, was discovering how to rest well with people. I had been believing the lie that interacting with others would only take away from my rest, until I felt the invitation to seek out spending more time with my family. My brother’s household and I now gather in my parents’ home every other week for the evening, to feast and to be with one another. While I have been blessed with a loving and generous family, I feel like I have only recently come to treasure it as so. It is a privilege to dwell in the safety of my parent’s four walls for my night off, and to sit and play with my nieces. I get to serve and help my mum, and laugh with my older brother, and do all of it abounding in peace and in joy.
Friend, wherever you are at in your journey of cultivating rest in your life, I encourage you, that it is fully available for you. Allow God to undo your busyness and unveil the beauty of pausing with Him – then give yourself fully to the adventure of searching out what it looks like for you.
You need this.
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