When You Think You Don’t Have Time for Rest

The dishes have been cleared and I’m scraping the last of the ice cream from my bowl when Tom Nearing starts talking about bats. There’s a disease making its way towards the West Coast called White-Nose Syndrome, a fungus that disrupts a bat’s sleep schedule so that they end up flying themselves to death.

And Roundup, that weed-killer that’s been around since 1974? It works by disrupting a weed’s rest cycle so that it works itself to death.

We all sit for a moment, stunned by the simple yet unmistakable truth: Rest is not a luxury but a necessity of life. Without it, you will die.

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In a frenetic, race-to-the-top world where everyone is constantly trying to show how much more they’ve done, could we slowly be killing ourselves with our hunger to be the busiest, the most productive, the one who never pauses? We run from one coffee date to the next, drag our kids from play dates, to music classes to library time and zoo trips and wonder why we still feel like we’re spinning in place rather than going forward.

Are we haunted by the lie that our life is valued by the fullness of our calendars? If we could do just a little more, fill our schedules a bit tighter, then we could fall into bed, fall into the grave, and heave a sigh that at least we gave it our best shot.

And then I start reading through Exodus and I’m blind-sided by those dusty 10 Commandments. Right after God makes it clear that He and He alone is to be worshiped, the Holy One worthy of fear and awe and reverence, He says to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

That seventh day where God rested after He spoke everything into life. That one extra day that God took to step away from work and give space within the week, within Creation to contemplate, to delight in the work He had done and to simply be without doing.

And I see that in my arrogance, I’m running roughshod over the Sabbath day, the day of rest, as though the work I’m doing is too important to deserve a rest.

When you’re a husband and wife working free-lance, there are no set hours, no boss to tell you when you need to be at an office and no end to the work day. The days run together and the work never quite ends. Suddenly, you’re working seven days a week. Yeah, it’s not 8 hour days and you’re not really a workaholic. But you can’t seem to put the phone down, to ignore emails or to stop thinking, striving, planning for that next project or deadline.

A pastor once said that the Sabbath is a day for our soul’s to catch up. Is the bone-weary, soul-drained tired that I feel at times due to running so ahead of my soul that it gets lost in the dust?

Those four months we stayed at that Hollywood Director’s home in Los Feliz, we couldn’t have guests over. Four months of evenings that ended by 7 pm, days that were less full than is my habit, because a toddler needs her naps and bedtime schedule or the whole world is going to be a living hell. Four months of learning to say no, to live in the quiet and to embrace the rest that was being forced on me.

My dear friend Rae likes to remind me that rest is work. Hard work of not wasting the rest, of living fully in it and pressing hard into God to hear what He would speak when the world slows down a bit. So for four months, I worked at resting. At giving my body time to exhale after months of moving around, giving my soul time to savor the small moments of the day and finding a new rhythm of intentional living.

A funny thing happened: I found myself more productive when it came to my work, more focused on my relationships and experiencing more joy than I had in some time. Could it be that the rest I dreaded, that I shunned as laziness, was actually the key to the life I craved, to the walk of faith for which my heart yearned?

Los Angeles is the kind of place where you can lose yourself in the busy, where your schedule becomes a bragging right of sorts and where years get wasted running after nothing because you’re too busy to see that it’s all for show. In the season of rest, I first felt embarrassed that I couldn’t claim to be doing more than other people. That my days consisted of walks and unscheduled play at home with my little girl felt luxurious, even lazy, or perhaps wasteful.

Once I embraced rest, I pitied the people, yes, even Christians, who seemed to race from one thing to the next, claiming they never had time to get together but would so love to if they could just find one minute. They didn’t realize that the thing they were racing after, the feeling of being settled, of a life driven by purpose, might only come when they stopped to rest.

Is our constant need to fill the days and nights a symptom that we’re running from something rather than towards a better future? Time and again God gently calls to us in Scripture to be still and know that He is God. Sure, we can know Him in the doing, in the joining where He’s working.

But how will we recognize His voice if we’re too busy to stop and listen? In running to do things for Jesus, could we actually miss Jesus himself? If our schedules leave us exhausted, angry, stressed out, worn out and stretched thin are we really pursuing Kingdom glory or simply our own glory?

Weeds and bats need rest to live. Why not humans? What if rest is the key to redeeming the minutes, to quieting the clutter and setting our sights on the Kingdom of Heaven rather than our fiefdoms on earth?

A life well lived has never been about how much gets done but how much is surrendered. He can do more in our waiting, our stillness, our resting, than we could ever accomplish in all our doing. It’s a hard truth to learn in world that measures success by how few minutes you spend in quiet, unscheduled moments. But I don’t want to be like the world.

I want to be a person at rest, even when all around me is spinning mad. I want to be a deep breath for people, a safe place where they can exhale and leave refreshed in the time we spent in relationship. I want to go slow enough that I don’t miss the moments of blessing that make my heart burst, to be able to hear the voice of my Maker whenever He calls me.

On the seventh day, God rested. Can I expect to do anything less and live?

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