The Sabbath: Rest

In the recent survey I sent out it was heartening to see that as a church – we are comparatively good at resting. I asked a whole series of questions relating to all different sorts of rest and then calculated people’s average score out of 5. Those in the church who take a weekly day off did come out with significantly higher levels of restfulness than those who claimed they never stopped properly. Click here if you would like to look at the graph.

 

Although we did score higher than those of other religions or none – we were still far off from full scores! There is still a lot we could do to increase our restfulness and therefore decrease our stress levels that lead to all sorts of other problems.

 

And, if we rest well, we can be a light to a society where “everybody is weary and there is no rest” (Wendell Berry), which is in turn causing a crisis due to all the stress and burnout related problems.

 

Last week I looked at how on the Sabbath we CEASE from work, productivity, and possessiveness for a day in order to reorient ourselves towards God and his values. RESTING is about what we then fill our day with once we have stopped all that.

 

If you are looking to rest more fully on your Sabbath, I would suggest looking at four different areas and evaluating whether what you tend to do on that day leads to restfulness in these areas.

 

  • Physical rest.

How strenuous is what you do on your day off? Do you allow or find ways to let yourself sleep more, breathe in fresh air and eat what your body needs?

  • Emotional rest.

How many social activities do you plan for your days off? Do you allow some time for silence and/or solitude as well as time with others? What makes you feel drained – could you avoid or decrease this on your Sabbath?

The rhythm and certainty of a day off each week has been proven to help people’s mental health when so much else is uncertain in life. And so this in itself helps us rest emotionally.

  • Mental rest.

Do you allow yourself to rest from study, from analysing the news, from intense discussions on this day? Could you instead engage in meditation on scripture, a day away from the media, and fun activities that are more likely to bring joy than arguments on the whole?

  • Spiritual rest.

Velma once recommended that I begin a practice she calls soaking in God’s presence – literally just sitting there, knowing God is around me, imagining him next to me, enjoying his company – with no particular agenda other than soaking in his love for me, and perhaps telling him how I feel – as I would with a friend over coffee, or on a walk in the park.

Do you allow yourself time away from the world’s demands, in a place where you are able to hear the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) which heals and renews our strength as we give the day “to the Lord” (Exodus 16:23)?

 

True rest is counter-cultural – but it is also deeply Biblical, and modelled by Jesus himself, and something that if we were to practice could bring such life to us and to those around us – both because of how we would then relate to them, but also because they may then begin implementing changes in their own lives, and asking us why this is such a priority for us. It is a priority because we follow a God who loves us and wants the best for us – and so he asks us to rest, regularly.

 

But to practice this  “…requires enormous intentionality and communal reinforcement amid the barrage of seductive pressures from the insatiable insistences of the market, with its intrusion into every part of our life from the family to the national budget.” (Brueggemann)

 

So next week we will look at how we can embrace the Sabbath so we gain this intentionality in how we practice it.