The dawn of the new millennium and the birth of rapidly advancing technology has brought about an extension to the working week. With machines to do our washing, kitchen appliances doing half the work for us and having a service for pretty much anything, humanity rejoiced as we thought we had “more time”. This led us to focus more on “bossing it” at work, cramming in all the study hours and climbing to the top of our respective work ladders.
Generally, from what I read and hear discussed, it’s been like this for nigh on 30 years. The world is rushing, forgetting resting. Striving, forgetting sabbath. After a year of almost forced rest in the U.K, I think we’re waking up to just how important it really is. We’re redefining the work-life balance, we’re rediscovering what really matters to us and I’m not mad about it!
I don’t really think of the horizontal, sleep, lay on a beach kind of rest (although that is definitely part of it – I am SO ready for a holiday) because we can all come away from times like that still feeling unrested. I mean more, recalibrating, coming back to a sense of self and what makes us happy, reprioritising and then “going again” on Monday.
Rest is an active thing. It’s a choice we make about our week. John Mark Comer, a church teacher and writer from Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregan puts it like this: “It’s about cultivating an environment, an atmosphere to enjoy your life, your world, and your God. It’s more of a mode of being than a twenty-four-hour time slot.”
Rest isn’t something we earn, it’s something we get to enjoy.
Living in the world, we work so we can rest. Living in Christ, it’s different, counter cultural, upside down. We rest so we can work. God rested in Genesis on the seventh day. In Jewish culture that seventh day is actually the beginning of the week. The week literally starts with rest. If I’m meant to follow God’s lead I think I can do it here too.
Reading the Gospels, I’m usually looking for the work Jesus is doing, the miracles he’s performing, the lives he’s changing. But if I look closer, interwoven throughout it all is rest. He eats with his friends, enjoying himself. He sleeps on the boat in the storm, regenerating his energy. He retreats to be alone and pray, coming back to his sense of self and purpose.
So why am I so worried that I’m not always working?
One thing I’ve really had to wrestle with is that rest is not laziness! When I was a teenager, my mum would often swing into my room when I was mid-movie, peak snack (junk food) time and tell me I was being lazy. That there was much to be done and I needed to “get a move on”. There was probably some truth in it, more than likely I had homework I was avoiding and chores I couldn’t bear to complete. But I’ve carried that into adulthood. Now, it’s like my mum is standing over my shoulder when I’m having a slow Saturday asking “What are you doing?!”
A few weeks ago I was reflecting on how I like to rest, when I realised that I actually use my days off to complete my to-do list. I clean the house, get my groceries, do as many loads of washing as humanly possible. Then it comes to Monday and I want to roll over and relive the past two days.
Now, I get it, the to-do list has got to be done! Your to-do list is probably even longer than mine. But our “to-do” shouldn’t interfere with our being.
As best I can in the season of life I find myself in, I work my to-do list into my working week. I work hard at my job and empty myself of energy during the day. Then my evenings I re-charge, I fill up my energy tank with rest. Currently that looks like: a meal at the dinner table with my housemate, a long hot shower or maybe a couple of episodes of One Tree Hill before my head hits the pillow and I go again tomorrow.
Then Saturday comes around and that is now my day with no agenda. Nothing to complete or create. Time spent refilling myself, celebrating God and how he has made me and is making my life. A long, slow walk, a flat white, seeing friends, reading, eating, doing things that bring me joy and not spending my day to please others or tick off my to-do’s.
In Matthew 11, Jesus asks: “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.”
The world says rest is sleep, and in some ways it is. But now I’m watching how Jesus rests and taking inspiration from him.
Love Georgia x