I don’t know about you, but I have never been finished with ALL of my work. There is always something I just don’t get to. Either I drag my heels because it is an unappealing chore, or I am just too tired to do one more thing. I usually feel guilty, lazy, or disappointed with myself… I am, after all, a born and bred Minnesotan.
You have most likely felt the same pressure to “get it all done” at some point in your life. In our culture, so much of our identity, success, and our self worth is tied to our usefulness and productiveness. What is one of the first things you ask a new acquaintance? Usually, it is “What do you do?” Sadly, we are often valued for what we do, not who we are. The constant pressure to perform is spiritually, mentally and physically exhausting. To cope, we eat too much, drink too much, develop a short fuse, and often become depressed. We sometimes get sick. Some of us die.
Take a look at the numbers:
- 435,000 American women have heart attacks annually; 83,000 are under age 65; 35,000 are under 55. The average: 70.4.
- 42% of women who have heart attacks die within 1 year, compared to 24% of men.
- Under age 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal.
- 267,000 women die each year from heart attacks, which kill six times as many women as breast cancer. Another 31, 837 women die each year of congestive heart failure, representing 62.6% of all heart failure deaths.
With numbers like these, we can’t afford not to make some changes in our own lives.
In my search for more balance and purpose in my life, I have often struggled with finding time to rest and just “be”. In a busy household, there just isn’t a lot of margin some weeks. This week has been full of endless rounds of the “mom where is my….?” game. Recently, however, I was led to look more closely at a very familiar Bible verse. Many of us have heard before that God rested on the seventh day. I am sure the creation of the earth and all that is in it was no small job! However, I had never noticed a few key words in the verse that have a deeper lesson for us.
.. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.(Genesis 2:2) (emphasis mine)
God had finished the work he had been doing.
Not ALL his work, just the tasks of the day, the jobs at hand. Moreover, he didn’t head to Starbuck’s to have a latte for thirty minutes. He rested for a WHOLE DAY! I repeat, A WHOLE DAY! (I can hear you now.. “Yeah, right. I can’t even brush my teeth in peace!) Just bear with me here.
The Jewish tradition has been practicing this idea of a day of personal renewal for centuries; they call it “Sabbath keeping”. The meals are cooked the day before, the work is put out of sight, the house is tidied up and 24 hours of rest begins. Sometimes candles are lit to welcome the Sabbath. As productivity and accomplishment ceases, an amazing, freeing thing happens: spontaneity and childlike ability to play becomes uncorked. When we are not under the compulsion to produce, we are given time to be with others and discover who they are.
Some years ago, after the death of our second daughter, Julia, we began the practice of Sabbath keeping. Our day included church, previously cooked meals, naps, reading, watching movies, and playing games. Looking back, I value how those days provided a rootedness and peace in our family. Now, as the kids are older, other activities and needs have been in fierce competition for our day of rest and togetherness, and I feel the fatigue and tension in the house when we don’t take the time to slow down and connect with each other. My kids are learning to do, do, do in unhealthy levels as well. We have fallen into the trap of the 24/7 superstores and living life constantly on the go. The “crispiness around the edges” is showing. It is time to revisit the ancient paths again.
Although many of you hold jobs that require working on Sunday, all is not lost. You may not be resting from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday as the Jews do, or on Sunday, the traditional day set aside by Christians. Set aside a different day. Maybe you don’t consider yourself to be a religious person. That’s OK. The goal here is not to be legalistic… the important thing is to consistently set aside a day from work. During your Sabbath time, choose to celebrate your day of rest in ways that are meaningful to you. You might sleep, read, walk, enjoy the company of a friend, pray, watch the clouds, or any of a hundred other things. The point is to not be enslaved by time. Feast literally and figuratively on the goodness in your life. Appreciate your blessings, the breath of life and the gift of the day.
When you have the goals of ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting, you will discover the rewards of Sabbath keeping. You will begin to hear yourself think again. You will find your creativity energized. You will be living intentionally. You will experience rest and peace.
Make Today Count!
(For a deeper look at Sabbath Keeping, check out “Keeping the Sabbath Wholly” by Marva J. Dawn)