*Happy Sigh. Such beautiful words. Peace. Rest. What comes to mind when you hear those? Is it a morning walk on the beach, listening to the rise and fall of the waves on the sand? Is it that Italian vacation you took last year, aimlessly wandering the city and feasting on fresh tomatoes and mozzarella? Is it the moment that you have packed up the kids and sent them off to Grandma's house for the day and you breathe a sigh at the noiseless surroundings of your home?
Life's craziness has a way of stealing away those moments. Very often peace and rest are replaced with to do lists and caffeine.
My dear friend, this is not the way it was meant to be!
Peace is defined as quiet tranquility and freedom from disturbance.
Rest is the refreshing quiet, relief or freedom--especially from anything that wearies or troubles.
I don't know what was different about last week, but it was a doozy! The entire week I carried around a stack of grading that was triple its usual size, and even though I spent more time than usual attending to it, its size never decreased. I started out the week exercising daily, and midway through I never had time to stop and put on my work out gear. Every night was an hour/hour and a half late bed time and I got up at least 15 minutes earlier than usual. I am still baffled as to where the time went.
On Saturday, a friend had the lovely idea to have a craft day at her home. It was the perfect opportunity for me to bite the bullet and get on my scrapbooking. (An item that has been on my to do list for at least 6 months. They hadn't been updated since February 2014. Talk about busy!) I went over and 1) got to experience her peaceful home where artistic design and attention to detail were added "just so" and 2) had a few hours of uninterrupted time enjoying a craft that I love, thoughtful conversation, and a soothing background of Downton Abbey music playing. As I said good-bye and thank you, I paused to get the right word on what I was saying thank you for.
"Thank you for...the peace."
That's exactly what it was. I love my home. I love quality time with my family. But sometimes, it's really hard to remove myself from the things I notice that I still need to do. I feel selfish for taking time to do something that I want to do rather than something that needs to be done. Taking some time away to simply rest and detach my mind from those things brought a sense of peace, tranquility, quiet, freedom. And it was beautiful. My soul was at rest.
I was contemplating that sweet moment of time the rest of the day. I thought maybe that might be a topic for staff devotions that I am leading on Friday. I tucked it in the back of my mind to save for later.
The next day, I went to a different church than usual to witness my best friend and her husband dedicating their sweet baby girl to the Lord.
Isn't she a doll?! I just love her. She was picture perfect in her little coral, lace dress.
It was the perfect Sunday to go, because it was part 3 in a series called "Crazy Busy." What better phrase to define my week?! He was preaching about the Sabbath, which was a little ironic because we've discussed that specifically in our small group study of Galatians.
In Galatians, Paul is trying to teach the Jews that they don't have to follow the Old Testament laws anymore--they CAN, but they don't HAVE to in order to get to God--because Jesus came and fulfilled the purpose behind those laws. Those laws originally showed us how far from perfect we were--how sinful we were and that no matter how hard we tried, we could never reach the holiness that is necessary to be with God.
Enter Jesus: God's solution for our sin and inability to follow every single one of these laws. The debt was paid, grace came in and lifted that burden of law and replaced it with a promise for rest from our weary, burdened lives of doing good. Now, this doesn't mean we can just stop doing the right thing because it's paid for. (If you want a good book recommendation that covers this, I highly recommend "Jesus Is ____" by Judah Smith; Hubby and I are reading this together right now. It's amazing.)
God has our best in mind. I believe that He gave us guidelines in the Bible to help us--to give us a more fulfilling life for ourselves and for those we interact with. We've talked in my small group about whether or not we can decide which laws to stick to and which ones didn't matter as much--certain eating practices, sacrifices, observing the Sabbath, etc.
But since this post is about peace and rest, let's take a closer look at this principle of Sabbath.
Exodus 20:9-10a "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work."
Now, where the Pharisees got in trouble with this was they started adding more rules to it--dictating what exactly work meant or didn't mean. Can I grade papers on my sabbath? Is it okay to work out, which is something I hate doing but is good for me? How about prepping dinners for the week? I think that definition of "work" is between you and God. My rule of thumb: Do I feel at peace when I do this? Does my soul feel at rest? Is this something that will help me refocus on what's really important in my life? Have I taken an extended period of time this week to recharge and get the rest and focus that I need?
On Sunday, the pastor explored some different aspects of rest that I hadn't considered before:
1. Perhaps sabbath is important because as Christians, we represent God with the way we live. If we are constantly too busy to be with people, what is that saying about God and what He cares about?
2. Perhaps sabbath is important because it's showing God that we trust Him--that we have faith that he will provide time enough for the things that need doing, which we so easily focus on when we feel that there's no time to stop and rest.
3. Perhaps sabbath is important because it demonstrates a willingness to "tithe" our first 10%. God asks us for the firstfruits of our labor (Deut. 26) to show worship of God with the money He's given us. What about the time He's given? He's blessed us with life on earth that is filled with moments of time. What are we doing with that time to show our appreciation and worship? Are we letting our activities become an idol to us? Do we prioritize those things over the rest God asks us to have?
Rest is good for us and for those around us when we do it. Studies have been out for years about less health problems, better mood, weight control, clearer thinking, etc. But more importantly, when you rest, it allows for time to be invested in what really matters--to not miss out on the life God wants you to have.
Take a look at how Phil Vassar puts it:
Now most of us don't travel a ton with our jobs, but how many many of us consistently stay late at work to get a few more things done or carry work how with us every night? No one signs up for a career with the intention to miss out on being with their family or friends. But in our career-driven society, and many of us living in a place with a higher cost of living, that's what so often happens.
As a teacher, it is so easy to bring papers home with me to grade on Saturday so that I can be a "good" teacher and have everything graded and entered in by Monday to send home with the students. It's so easy to be browsing Pinterest to see a better, more memorable way to teach about math strategies and inference. But when I do, I miss out on my "home time"--time that I can be reconnecting with friends or making memories with my hubby. I have found that I have had to start fighting for that time because it's worth fighting for.
The best piece of advice I was given as a new teacher came from my pastor's wife who used to teach and blessed me with many of her boxes of teaching supplies since she was now a homemaker. She told me, "Tabitha, there comes a point in every day as a teacher, that you have to say, 'Okay, I did as much as I could today, and that is enough,' and go home." She told me that I will NEVER get everything done that I need to. There is always something else I could do. But I have to honor the other things in my life that are important and learn to leave my job and not carry it with me everywhere.
The pastor said another thing about rest that I had never thought of before: When we don't leave work where it's supposed to be, being at work becomes less enjoyable because it's something we are always doing. How many of us dread Mondays? I don't always dread it. But the times that I do? It's when I brought work home with me and chipped away at it all weekend. I feel like I didn't get the break and rest that I needed to in order to be refreshed and ready to start another work week. I find myself saying, "I can't believe it's already Sunday night and I have to go to work tomorrow."
It's a vicious cycle, and it's not how God intended it to be. God gave Adam a job to do, though it wasn't as labor intensive as working the soil after the Fall. It's good for us to have jobs and to do them well--to be a part of a bigger picture--to invest in a group of people that we wouldn't normally get to encounter and to leave a piece of Jesus with them because of the interactions they had with us. But in the Bible He reminds us that rest is important to Him too in the way that He himself rested after Creation and how Jesus took time to get away from the crowds and to refresh. We are more productive and powerful people when we have taken a sabbath to recharge and refocus our attention.
So what does this look like in a practical sense? Sabbath in a busy, career-driven and home-living world full of to do lists and laundry?
For me, it means taking inventory of the things I have going on simultaneously when I am starting to notice zero time for sabbath.
It means prioritizing.
It means creating boundaries and saying no for the purpose of being able to say yes and contribute more at a better time.
It means making appointments in the calendar for time with the people that I care about and should be putting first.
It means telling myself that it's okay to have a sink full of dishes and to not cook an complex, amazing dinner every night.
It means admitting that I can't do it all and asking for help, and accepting the help that is offered. That's probably the hardest one for me because I'm an efficient person. I multi-task and get things done more quickly (and in a "better" way than I sometimes think someone else would do...and by "better," I mean in the way that I think is right.) ;)
Remember that true rest is found in a Person, not a possession or promotion.
It is a gift not a guilt trip. ("Come to me all you who are burdened and you will find rest. My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28, 30)