There are quite a few stories about what rest looks like.
One is "Work till you crash, crash as long as you can.”
Go, go, go, go ‘till you can’t anymore.
Another: “Work because you have to, but then escape.”
Netflix, fiction, fantasy sports, social media, wanderlust, clickbait, addictive behaviors. You name it.
“You work really hard, so it’s fine to tune out for a bit here and catch up on some insta stories."
We call this “weizure” mixing work and leisure. In the lack of separation, we can’t really do either.
Rest becomes incredibly elusive. None of these narratives end up bringing the peace they promise.
I’m speaking from experience here.
They leave us looking for something, more authentic and meaningful. It’s like tasting a plastic-wrapped slice of Kraft singles cheese when you’re looking for Tillamook cheddar.
It ain’t the real thing. It was orange. But that’s about it.
The Elusive Authentic
Rest is not just vegetating. It is not just watching Netflix.
It can include either of those things, but that is not all it is.
Have you ever seen the eyes of an adult light up when you ask them what they did yesterday and they say “nothing.”
It’s like they’ve fallen in love, or returned from a world-circling journey.
We’re getting warmer.
Rest is not as much about what you do, as it is about how you do it.
It’s not so much about how you spend your time, as it is about what your attitude is beneath.
There’s Kraft singles rest, and there’s Tilamook cheddar rest. Alright, enough with the cheese.
Work and Rest
Let’s start talking about the rest, not that we’ve been frustrated by, but the one that we hope to find.
Work and rest are really two sides of the same coin. They function best together. When one is out of wack, the other will suffer. That’ll be a crucial point to help you process this balance for yourself.
In order to understand work and rest, let’s start 'In the Beginning...'
The God named YHWH (Yah-weh) creates the world, and everything in it, and then creates humankind as a partner in enjoying his creation, keeping it wonderful and continuing to bring order to it. He spends most of his time moving the world from an uninhabitable, chaotic place into one inhabitable and good.
At the end of the creative process, YHWH takes a step back, looks at the things that he’s made in ‘the week’ and takes a whole day to just enjoy them.
He places such value on this process of work and rest, that he builds it into the very rhythm of creation. This is the model week. 6 days of work and 1 of rest to enjoy the things that have been done that are good.
Work is then not to be an unending, uncontrollable, chaotic existence, perpetually feeling two steps behind. Neither is it a thing to shrug off in pursuit of more ‘enjoyable’ things. Work at its core is making sense of the wilderness, cultivating a garden, and pulling the weeds, knowing we will return tomorrow to a new set.
What is שבת?
Genesis 2:2 states that God “finished” his work, and then rested.
It’s easy for this sentence to feel foreign and strange. Often it feels like we will never reach an end to our work.
On my rest days, a thousand loose ends pop into my head. From work, school, home or whatever, there’s always something I could be doing.
But that’s key. Not everything is essential.
It’d be funny for us to approach Genesis 2 and think “God couldn’t think of anything else to do, so he rested.”
To the contrary, He made a choice. He didn’t even need to rest right?
But it says he finished. So...
The word in Genesis 2:2 for “God rested” is the word shabbat (yes, the one in the header), where we loosely transliterate the word Sabbath from.
Shabbat means both to cease and to rest.
It’s not that there’s nothing to do. The word cease is more about choosing to come to a stopping point. At other times this word is used in the sense of “coming to a standstill.”
So, to summarize to this point. We’re talking about choosing to press pause on the never-ending, chaos-battling we call work.
But that can be paralyzing right? Maybe even a tad unrealistic...
Because we worry about the things left undone. Even when we’re not doing the things, they’re on our mind. We call this Stress. Anxiety. Worry.
So how do we get work, not just out of what we’re doing for a day, but out of our minds?
Will I Eat Tomorrow?
Back in the day, people grew their own food.
They were the ultimate pacific northwest, organic-focused, do-it-yourselfers. But, it probably didn’t have the fond, romantic ring it has to us. It probably felt a bit more practical like, “I gotta grow this food or my family will starve.”
When Israel, the people who were supposed to be a blessing to all nations by living YHWH's way, were given the instructions about Shabbat, it read something like this…
"Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.” Exodus 34:21
The first part sounds in line with Genesis 2, but what a weird tag-line. "Even in plowing season and harvest you must rest.”
Living in Season
Kelsee and I subscribe to a CSA (community-supported-agriculture) in Salem. The idea is, you pay a set amount at the beginning of a season in order to help farmers offset their start up costs (they usually invest a bunch up front to grow the food, then hopefully recoup it when they sell the harvested produce. Big risk right?)
It’s awesome. Our produce comes from people we know, in our city, it’s all organic, and most importantly, super tasty.
A few months ago, I was having a conversation with Chris, one of the owners of the farm, and he was talking about how some of their seasons are so busy.
Preparing the ground to plant seeds, and harvesting are some of the absolute craziest.
Especially harvest. When you’re trying to reap the actual results of all the time, money, sweat and struggle that you’ve poured into the crops in hopes that they’ll turn out and turn a profit.
It’s everything. There’s never not something to do. Everything counts on it, and you’re so close you can taste it (we were due for a pun).
And in Exodus, God is saying to his people, even in your busiest, most important, easiest to justify busy season, you need rest. Actually then more than ever.
Talk about trusting that everything will be ok if you set down your work for a minute. If it’s not, your family starves, and an entire season of work goes down the drain.
That’s the point though. True rest, is found in the ability to cease from not only doing your work, but also from worrying about it.
This sort of rest breaks down if you can’t trust someone that it’ll pan out. That’s why Sabbath rest is only possible when we entrust the chaos and unfinishedness of our work to God as an act of obedience.
It would sound something like “You’ve said I need to rest, so I trust that my family will be fed, even though I’m not out there harvesting when everyone else is. I know there’s more to the story, and you honor those who do what you say. I can take a day to rest, and I know I’ll work better tomorrow because of it. I trust my work to you, and know I can only do so much to ensure it goes well anyway.”
That’s a big deal.
This attitude moves a person from paralysis brought on by the anxiety of all the things left undone, to praise for all the good things that have been done in the week It’s really a luxury to be told by the boss “take a day off, I’ll take care of your stuff for you.”
It’s a day to enjoy. To remember what life is all about. To be thankful. To eat good food. To let someone else make it. To turn off the notification machine. To say no. To invest in our most important relationships. To go outside, to stay inside, to listen to music that refreshes, and to stories that move us.
This choice is crucial, in season and out because the demands we feel may never change, but we can.
Healthy rest is trading our work for a celebration, our anxiety for thankfulness, and our exhaustion for restoration.
Plan to cease.
We’ll talk a bit more about what it looks like to practice Sabbath.
Meaning both that it takes practice, and that we’ll move from philosophy to practice!
If you’re interested, subscribe below, and a robot will email you next week when we talk about it.