I'm thinking a lot about work, rest, and rhythms of faithfulness this summer.
As part of that processing, I wrote this post which originally appeared on this blog series. How is the different pace of summer shaping you?
The very first time we hear about sabbath is in creation. Creation was made very good and then God rested. Why did He rest? Was he tired from all of his creating?
Of course not.
God rested to enjoy and to celebrate all that He had created. We learn much from this first mention. Rest is not simply about ceasing work because God never ceases to work.
The Ten Commandments tell us to rest because God did. Every person, animal, and the land should rest on the seventh day. Deuteronomy gives us another reason to rest–remember that you were slaves and God brought you out of Egypt. We rest to celebrate God’s good creation in all its vast array and the graciousness of God who redeems His people.
Left to ourselves, we will go days, months, years absorbed in ourselves and our own little worlds. On our own, we’ll have narrow lives and allow sin to reduce life to small worlds. Out of God’s kindness, He includes a day of rest in the Ten Commandments to rescue us from ourselves. When we trust God enough to rest, our world expands. Rather than our narrow worlds, we’re invited to celebrate instead His graciousness and the completeness of creation.
Have you ever tried to celebrate while you have an overflowing to-do list? Maybe you struggled to remain present while planning a child’s birthday party or missed the incredible reality of entering a new season like moving into a college dorm room because you focused too intensely on checking off the list of needed items. This is why we rest. Resting helps us acknowledge the gift of abundant life in this moment.
When we rest well, it changes us and shapes our hearts. A hurried life devoid of rest strips us from all that God has intended. Oswald Chambers has said that a restless heart keeps us from abiding. So what does a life look like when we choose rest? If we rest to celebrate God’s graciousness then we walk in awareness of His kindness and it draws us into deeper life with Him.
Jesus says in John 15 that when a branch isn’t connected to Him it withers. But a branch connected bears fruit. Life flows. When we live with a restless heart, we disconnect from the life source. We wander about trying to check off our lists and feel useful. The unfortunate paradox is that we find our greatest place of fruitfulness when we’re connected to the Vine. A heart that abides with Him finds that He is the greatest rest. We find that the place of rest awakens us to the beautiful reality before us–our eyes see, our ears hear. Celebration comes as we see the One who is Life and all the beauty of the creation for us to discover and unfold.
When I was 19 years old, I had my most vivid illustration and invitation into sabbath summer. I had an opportunity to go to Australia to visit a friend studying abroad there at the time. It was a dream come true but felt so wrong. Why would I spend all of that money and time in something that wasn’t ministry? Shouldn’t I travel across the world on a missions trip rather than a frivolous experience to see the world? And yet, I felt God stirring my heart and inviting me into this trip. Was it possible that God had more in mind than how He could use me? Could He really want me to take a trip simply to enjoy Him and His creation? As I prayed about it, I heard a resounding yes!
It was an incredible trip. Everywhere I turned, God had set me up for upgrades and free experiences. I snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef (for free) and marveled at God’s wild creativity. I took a ski lift into the rainforest (for free) to see that God made plants with bright pink and purple leaves. I tasted the unmatched goodness of a true Australian Flat White coffee. I met people who lived at a slower pace and left shoes at home even to go into the city. I celebrated creation in all its vast array with the gracious God who rescued me and invites me into life overflowing with Him. I discovered that God actually just loves it when I spent time enjoying Him and seeing more of the creation He loves.
This summer perhaps God is inviting you to see Him as more than a utilitarian being who honors only what you can do for Him. Of course God loves the things we do with and for Him. But there’s so much more. Sabbath teaches us a lifestyle of abiding with Him and celebrating all the glimpses of grace in our lives. We rest to celebrate His good creation with Him.
How will you choose celebration this summer? Take a walk in a different neighborhood or state and pay attention to the creativity in God’s creation or cook a meal with unique flavors. Search for ways to heighten your attention to God’s goodness.