Sacred Rest
Sacred rest


Read Genesis 1:1–2:4a and Exodus 20:8–11

Have you ever heard someone say, I’ll sleep when I’m dead? We jokingly offer sayings like this to indicate how busy our schedules are and how tired we feel because of them. All of our joking, however, betrays an unfortunate truth about how we live with calendars that are so full that they leave little to no room for us to experience the sacredness of rest. I’m not sure any of us want to wait to experience rest once we’re dead, especially not since God has woven rest into the fabric of our being.

Genesis tells of the Trinity speaking the cosmos into existence, uttering words that explode atoms, coagulate planets, and ignite stars. From the starting point of that expansive primordial creativity God envisions the world and the beautiful diversity of flora and fauna that will populate it. And within six days’ time God establishes the building blocks of all the life that has ever lived, all of it deemed good, with creation’s crowning glory being the formation of human beings from the earth itself, which God calls very good. But on the seventh day God rests and observes all that had been accomplished, and God considered it supremely good.

So why did God rest? Was God tired? Did God need to catch God’s breath? I wonder if perhaps God rested as an act of love for creation, as if to model for creatures and people how God intends for us to live in sync with our biology. God’s idea isn’t that we would be defined by productivity or what we choose endlessly to do. God’s vision is rather that we learn to be wise in how we manage a balance of life, work, and rest. Each has its place and each must be conditioned by the wisdom of knowing what is needed or required of us in a given season. How we spend our time says everything about what we value.

I wonder if you have ever realized the first full day of human existence and partnership with God was the Sabbath? Isn’t that remarkable? That small detail in Genesis lets us know that my worth and your worth are not determined by what we accomplish or how productive we are. God loved us into existence before we ever did anything. That doesn’t mean we don’t labor and toil to earn a living or provide for others, but rather that productivity and efficiency are not valid measurements for determining our worth or goodness in God’s eyes or in the eyes of the church. I am not what I do; I am a beloved child of God, and God creates space in my life for rest and relationship.

Sabbath is God’s regular rhythm of renewal that allows us to experience God’s presence and grace. The world will not fall apart if you create space in your life to rest and to take stock of what a blessing life in God is. Because I can’t be a disciple if my life revolves around work. I can’t be a disciple if my life is wholly consumed with what my kids are doing next. I can’t be a disciple if my mantra is, “I’ve already done my time, let someone else do it.” I can’t be a disciple if my family and my church can’t count on me because I’m so burned out by life and the way I’ve prioritized my life. So many of us live lives that flow about as well as a clogged drain. We pile on so many commitments and over-schedule so many events on our calendars and lay so many burdens of expectation on ourselves as parents and families and kids that the Holy Spirit can barely trickle through the clog we’ve created. God has built us to work out of our rest, not to rest from our work.

In other words, starting from sacred rest helps us to recalibrate our lives where we’ve fallen victim to societal pressures to be busy, overwork ourselves, and overcommit our families, and from there to decide afresh what rhythms are giving us the most life for living so that we may pour ourselves into them. A regular practice of Sabbath-keeping builds up those “No” muscles (and however much of a people pleaser you are, you have “no” muscles!) so that our lives may be freer to say “Yes” to Jesus and to each other.

- Patrick Murphy

Last Published: August 7, 2019 2:23 PM
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