Life feels really busy. In fact, one of the reasons why I started this blog was so that I had a way to document life as it sometimes seems to move at a dizzying pace.
You likely feel it too. When asked how we’ve been lately, the answer so frequently starts with, “Busy!” (A habit I’ve worked hard to correct in the past year.) Our schedules are crammed with work obligations and studying and birthday parties and doctors’ appointments and family commitments and full email inboxes and volunteer opportunities — to name a few.
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. To feel like there are never enough hours in the day. To feel like we’ll never cross everything off the list. To wish we could somehow hit the pause button and take a quick vacation from life.
While I’m prone to feel overburdened and weary just like anyone else, there is one practice that has worked wonders in helping me maintain my sanity and joy even as I navigate a really hectic world. And that thing is a regular practice of rest, also known as sabbath.
Three years ago, Jordan and I were living in one of the busiest seasons of our lives. We had just started our church (which brought on a range of pressures/responsibilities), we were in the middle of renovating our apartment, and we were expecting a baby. We were overworked, anxious, and tired.
But thankfully for us, during that same time, we also read a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, which includes a chapter encouraging people to practice a sabbath — a 24-hour period of rest where we embrace our God-given limitations.
At first, I was pretty skeptical. How could the answer to navigating my busy schedule be to take an entire day off, from both paid and unpaid work? Surely that was a recipe for falling more and more behind.
But then I considered that even God, himself, worked to create the world and then took time to stop, rest, and reflect on His creation. And my intellectual mind considered the numerous scientific studies that support the idea that regular rhythms of rest lead to greater productivity. (Seems like God and science agree on more than people like to let on.)
And I took a hard look at what my reluctancy to rest really said about what I believed:
- God isn’t big enough to take care of this person, that problem, or me if I’m not constantly at work.
- Slowing down means saying no to some people and opportunities, and I can’t bear to disappoint others, be left out, or risk not being liked.
- My identity is intimately tied to the work I do; if I’m not working/producing, who am I?
- If I have an ambition, it must be completely up to me to achieve it, with little help from God or others along the way.
- Busyness is a badge of honor/cultural currency, and I might be judged if I set it aside.
Realizing my fears, I decided to trust God with my time and limitations instead. And so every Friday, Jordan and I do our very best to take a sabbath rest.
And it’s been really transformational for both of us. It’s kept us from burnout, it’s kept us loving each other and others well, it’s kept us more present for our sons, and it’s kept us from having an inflated sense of self. I’m hooked, and I think everyone should be too.
Here’s what it looks like, (h/t to Emotionally Healthy Spirituality):
We make a concerted effort to get all of our work done between Sunday and Thursday. When Friday comes along, we stop all work–both paid and unpaid–which means we do laundry, food shopping, and other home maintenance tasks during the week. We embrace our limits and let go of the illusion that we are indispensable to the running of the world.
We engage in activities that restore and replenish us, which for us can look like napping, watching a movie, reading our favorite magazines, or exploring our city. It also often means turning off our push notifications on our phones/email, and that we stay away from social media, which can so easily drag us back to things on the phone.
This is an opportunity to enjoy and delight in God’s creation all around us and the gifts he offers us in it. These gifts come in the form of people, places, and things. And this time of delight will differ for each person. Jordan and I are foodies, so we often take time during our sabbath to savor really delicious food. I love how photographs can capture the beauty in everything, so I often bring my camera along as we explore. I might also spend time baking or delighting in nature or the architecture around the city. And we delight in a “Pizza Fridays” dinner with our kids to soak up the blessing that they are, while not having the pressure of cooking something or cleaning up dirty dishes.
Finally, we spend time reflecting on God and his care for us. We focus on how we can see God at work in our lives. We don’t spend the entire day in prayer or reading scripture, but we do try to take our eyes away from the busyness of life and focus on God’s centering love instead. We also look inward to assess how we’re feeling about life — both the highs and the lows.
The result is not that everything on the list has been checked off. But we do head into the new week feeling recharged, centered, and able to approach our work with more joy.
What’s your favorite way to practice rest?
If you’re wanting to learn more about the power of rest, Jordan preached a sermon about it last week, which is worth a listen.