The Ever Elusive Idea of Sabbath

We are not called to rest from our work, but rather to work from our rest.

– Pastor Chris Brooks

I heard this statement at my company devotion this week and it hit me in the gut. As is often the case with God, I felt like I’d stumbled upon a divine appointment. I’m not good at resting. The irony of hearing this sermon, on this day, was not lost on me.

I entered devotion that morning with a heavy heart. My back was hurting, a lot. My chiropractor told me the day before that my muscles were fighting the recent progress we’d been making to straighten out my vertebras and level my hips. The remedy? Rest. I’d spent the evening on the couch rotating between ice and heat. I did not like it one bit. In fact, it brought up my least favorite, but ever returning emotion, shame.

I felt weak, exposed, vulnerable, incompetent, and unproductive. These are the adjectives that I try to avoid through my constant activity and utter disregard for the concept of true rest. I live my life around to-do lists, tasks, and shoulds. I go from one thing to the next, constantly looking for something to accomplish or produce. Paul and I, we’re realizing, have created a culture in our home where that is not only celebrated, but expected. Grace for the opposite is a bit slim. We have trained ourselves to run ragged all week until we finally collapse in exhaustion to “rest” and most likely watch Netflix.

Watching Netflix is not resting. It’s become an act of desperation. A shoddy substitute when we are denying ourselves the grace and opportunity to pursue genuine and authentic sabbath. True rest, I know in my heart, is not what I am currently engaging in.

I strive to be intentional in the tasks I pursue on a daily basis. In my work day I am regimented and go about my responsibilities on purpose. After work, I keep our house running, meal-prep, and regularly schedule in exercise to my routine. Why then am I unable, or unwilling, to pursue rest and sabbath in the same manner? Why would I not schedule and block off time to pursue genuine rejuvenation? Why do I only settle to rest when I feel as if my body and soul are about to give out? Why is it only then, and only for short moments, that I allow myself to stop and pseudo-rest?

Ultimately, I don’t actually believe I deserve rest. I feel valuable when I am producing. This is something I have noticed in myself for a while, and it comes up in many areas of my life. My need to produce comes in stark contrast with my soul’s desire to create. For the last few months I’ve returned to this idea and danced around it again and again, without resolution. Every time I get a bit more clarity and step into a bit more vulnerability and risk, and I think that is okay.  But today, I’m confronting it in yet another facet of my life.

I had every intention of sabbathing completely today. I failed by 8:30 am. After church Paul and I talked for a long time about our lack of sabbath and intentionality toward self-care. In the Vought house we have created a culture that doesn’t prioritize self-care. We prioritize keeping our home and yard cleaned, organized, and kept up, so that it is a place of ‘rest,’ but seldom allow ourselves to enjoy that rest. Our unspoken rule has somehow become ‘You can only rest after you’ve “earned it.”‘  We may live busy lives and have a lot on our individual and collective plates, but we’ve allowed our busy to define us. Stopping feels scary. Silence and stillness are vulnerable. Pursuing rest and creativity challenges a control idol that both of us cling to more tightly than we’d like to admit. Instead of stopping and enjoying the rest that God calls us to, we trudge on in our own strength.

It’s not somewhere we’re content to stay. This is not the culture and rhythm we want our family to be known for. We’re not okay with where we are. We’re not a hundred percent sure where to start, but we’re starting. 

So today, we pursued more rest than we would normally on Sunday. We both answered the question if you had no obligations, what would you do today? We took a few hours and answered those question with action. It was a start. We took a nap, like an hour long, out like a light, nap! I tackled a project that has been on my mind and desk for a few weeks. It was a bit scary and vulnerable, but I let God prod me to create space and try something new. Paul worked in the yard doing projects and taking part in something that feeds his soul. When he began to cross the line from refreshing to doing, he stopped.  I then finished writing this blog post that I’ve been writing in my heart for a few days. It’s refreshing to put my hands to the keyboard. No matter how small the audience, it is a test of faith to push publish and brings accountability.

After pushing send, Paul and I are going to have dinner and take part in Sunday Movie Night – a new rhythm we’re starting with dreams to someday involve our kids.

I did a quick google search on scripture surrounding sabbath, and it appears to me it’s not something God takes lightly. It is a gift, but also a responsibility He has placed on us, as those whom His spirit dwells in and those that bear His image.

I’m starting with rest, and trusting that He will help me accomplish more than I can do in my own strength this week.

So this week the question is: what would it look like to actually rest, and to work the rest of the week FROM that rest?