The elusive gift of Sabbath rest in my life.
Resting is hard for many of us, especially those of us who grew up in a community where work was prized above almost anything else. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise…” Productivity, even in ministry, becomes an idol, but it is an acceptable one. We take pride in how much we accomplish and we hold up our calendars as trophies of superiority.
The pandemic that rocked 2020 should have been a reset of rest and work in balance, and for many people the reset was real. For others of us, however, resting led to guilt over falling behind on plans and goals and work, so when restrictions were lifted, we jumped in doing double time to compensate for the jigsaw puzzles, movies, and books that kept us entertained for a year.
I know the feeling because that’s what I’ve done for the last year.
My word for 2021 was “wait.” I should have known this season would be one of forced rest. God knows that my temperament is one that seeks accomplishment, so He ensured that this year, I would not be able to show a list of doing. Instead, He gave me opportunities to practice being. I haven’t been entirely cooperative if I am perfectly honest. I looked for jobs in my field for months. When none materialized, I started up several side projects and looked for part-time work somewhere doing anything. I found that my resume made me look overqualified for pretty much everything, so I didn’t get callbacks for entry-level jobs. When I finally settled down to examine why, it was like the Lord told me to wait — and write; He would provide.
So I wrote. I worked diligently on a book I am compelled to write. I blogged. I started writing on Medium and Substack. I created a professional Instagram to promote my writing. Picked up some part-time side hustles to help with the bills. Like Martha, I found a way to jump into “holy doing” instead of consistently kneeling at the feet of the Teacher.
I can hear Jesus saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42). I’m not necessarily anxious or worried as Martha was, but I am impatient. Halfway into 2022, I thought I would be much farther along the book journey. I thought I’d have some kind of set schedule that had time for family, rest, exercise, and income generation. I thought the waiting ended when my word for the year transitioned from “wait” to “today.”
I picture Jesus shaking his head, “Oh Stephanie, Stephanie…”
Evidently, I have not learned the gift of rest.
For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works”…So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his (Hebrews 4:1–11).
Sabbath was made for humans, not the other way around (Mark 2:27). God designed a day for resting and worshipping because we (I) need it. It’s a command because most of us aren’t inclined toward holy rest. We go to church and Bible study. We take in the Word through podcasts, sermon videos, books, and music. And we check through the list without the kind of quiet pondering we need to do. Pondering only comes during rest.
This Sabbath, I need to reset. I need to reframe my activities and place them under the Word. More than reading. More than studying. More than writing. Certainly more than side-hustles. I need to rest, think, ponder, and worship the Lord.