Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobble stones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy~ Paul Simon
“We stay busy so that the truth of our lives can’t catch up.”~ Brene Brown
Many live at a high-speed pace. A recent article indicated that, assuming a middle-class worker working 50 weeks a year, worked over 428 more hours in one calendar year that the same person in that demographic in 1979. The website Techcrunch did a survey of those who visited their site and found that 80% of their users continued to work “virtually” after they went home from the office, 38% checked email while they were eating dinner, and 69% said they couldn’t go to sleep without checking their email one last time.
And yet the ancient wisdom of Scriptures reminds us,
…The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Exodus 20:9, 11
Maybe you are thinking, “Why does a God who is powerful enough to speak galaxies, suns, and field mice into existence need to take a rest? Is he tuckered out? What kind of all-powerful God is that?” Sabbath rest is not for God so much as it is for us. God wasn’t an old man who just worked in the yard and needed to come in, get some ice tea, sit in his big easy chair and take a break. He rested to show us how to rest.
When I was a younger father and it was time for my boys to take a nap I would send them to their rooms, maybe read a quick story to them and leave them in their room. If they didn’t go to sleep right away would speak firmly to them. If that didn’t work I would give them some Benadryl. (Kidding)
Now I have young grandchildren and do you know how I get them to take a nap? I lay down on the bed, tell them a story and we both take a nap together. You might call that old age, I’ll call it wisdom. I’m showing them how to rest. I show them what they need when they are unaware that they need it. That is exactly what God does for us. God shows us how to rest because he is a wise creator and a gracious Father who knows what we need.
What we see as we look at this garden picture, is that when we burn the candle at both ends we are not nearly as bright as we think we are. And when we work our fingers to the bone, we are not being overachievers, we are being self-destructive—we are being inhuman. To refuse rest is to try to live against the grain of the Cosmos.
Maybe you don’t know that the character for “busyness” in Chinese is a combination of the character for “tearing” and the character for “heart.” When our busyness gets the better of us it does violence to our souls. One friend even told me that it can mean heart-death.
How are you at keeping this commandment? You do recognize that these are not called the “Ten Suggestions?” What kind of society would we have if everyone reading this article approached the other nine with the same energy that we approach this one about rest?
Imagine someone saying, “I’m really trying to take some incremental steps at not murdering people. I see some progress, but this is a “cra cra” time of the year for me.” We don’t give each other a pass when it comes to breaking the commandment about adultery or stealing or murder, but we do with the commandment to simply rest. Why do we feel completely justified and even validated in burning the midnight oil?
The classic movie Chariots of Fire is about runners in the 1924 Olympic Games and one of the runners named Harold Abrahams said just before a race—in a moment of angst, “And now in one hour’s time, I will be out there again. I will raise my eyes and look down that corridor; 4 feet wide, with 10 lonely seconds to justify my existence. But will I?”
I think many of us can’t stomach any stoppage to our work because we are our work. We use what we do to justify our existence. We bet our identity, our sense of ourselves, on what we do in our Monday through Saturday world. We have 40, 70, 90, 100 lonely hours a week to justify our existence. But will we?
What has this done to our souls? I suspect we are not the better for it. As a curator of souls, I’m concerned about our drift away from ancient soul-practices. In the Jewish tradition, it is common to speak of the Sabbath as a Queen that a family might welcome into the home as a guest on a week by week basis.
So, how can we welcome Queen Sabbath into our “crazy busy” lives?
The word Sabbath is a Hebrew word that has a pretty simple non-religious meaning. It means, “Stop” “Cease” or “Quit.” Sabbath simply means that one day a week you stop all of your earning, producing and accomplishing. Here is how we might say Sabbath in our context: “Unplug.”
Go for a walk. Notice the veins in the leaves that process the energy from the sun. Feel the breeze on your face. Go for a walk in the rain.
Cook from scratch your family’s favorite meal and have a race to see who can finish eating their meal—last. Sit at the table and listen to the stories of your children. Listen to the tone of voice of your spouse. Maybe even listen to the silence between you and your spouse.
Have a meandering conversation with someone. Have no purpose to the discussion. Let silence linger between you if need be.
When I was in high school I worked on a cattle ranch every summer and we cooked on a wood-burning stove. My girlfriend and I exchanged letters and in one letter she said, “I love the smell of your letters. They smell like wood smoke.” When we enter into a rhythm of practicing Sabbath we take that aroma into our work world so that others might say, “I love your life. It smells like rest.”
What would your regular Monday-Friday work life look like if it was shaped by Sabbath, shaped by deliberate rest?
Practice mini Sabbaths during the day. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to unplug for five minutes at the beginning, middle, and end of the day. Someone shaped by the Sabbath might change the expectations of those who work for them. Perhaps they make it a practice to NOT email employees after hours and encourage their employees to unplug after dinner. Perhaps a person shaped by Sabbath would approach each day at work with less anxiety about outcomes.
Sabbath isn’t “me” time. It is not time to get a mani-pedi, do some maintenance on you, or go shopping. Sabbath is first and foremost about God. Sabbath grounds us in what God does for us in Jesus. And that means that the weekly rhythm of worship is the center-piece of Sabbath.
That is why we gather weekly at a place of faith and sing the songs, pray the prayers, take communion and listen to the reading and teaching of the Word of God. Worship incrementally shapes and forms our Sabbath souls over a lifetime.
Of course as a Christ-follower, I believe Jesus said it best, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)