All we have to offer the world is the presence of God.That Holy Anarchist, Mark Van Steenwyk
I had lunch with a friend recently, and a significant portion of our discussion turned to concepts of rest. He was coming into the discussion tired, having felt worn by day to day stresses of life and ministry. His last holiday time had been quite some time ago (6 months) and even then, it was short and to a place that wasn’t actually restful. Week to week, changes in his living situation had also severely strained any sort of regular restful day away. And the weight of the tiredness was just getting to him.
This wasn’t something hard for me to understand. Having a newborn baby in the house has placed a serious damper on the amount of sleep I’ve been able to get; I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but that doesn’t mean rest shouldn’t be part of my vocabulary, still.
As we talked I was reminded of Genesis 1. All the way back at the beginning of God’s story in our world. Chapter 1 is a beautifully poetic telling of how we came to be, and God’s beautifully creative touch. We often stop there with this though. During my lunch I challenged us both, really, to not stop with just this but to look at one arm of the creation story that’s easy to overlook: rest.
We chatted about how God had a period of work, and specific tasks to do each of the first 6 days of the creation story. And then, if you keep reading, you come to this,
By the seventh day God finished the work that he had been doing, and he ceased on the seventh day all the work that he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he ceased all the work that he had been doing in creation. (Gen 2:2-3)
God ceases his creative work, and sets it said as as holy. We read later,
“Remember the Sabbath day to set it apart as holy. For six days you may 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or the resident foreigner who is in your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. (Exodus 20:8-12)
This seventh day becomes an intentional rest for God, and His people, and all those living in their land.
Sometimes, this day of rest is scheduled week to week. In the states its common to work Monday thru Friday, for example, and “take off” Friday and Saturday. Sometimes it needs to look different though. Sometimes we go through difficult seasons of life, and sometimes things just change, and sabbath is about a longer, more intentional rest. The Israelites were told to take every 7th, and 50th year completely off from agriculture, for example (Leviticus 25).
Basically, sometimes we just need rest. We need to put our plows done, go inside, take a deep breath and stop dwelling on the stresses of work. Sometimes we need a season of reflection to process where we’ve been and where we are going. And that’s OK.