Sometime between April of 1977 and April of now, I forgot how to rest. Oh, I can fall on my pillow at night and sleep. I can sit and watch Downton Abbey for hours. I know how to read a book on the beach. But sleep is often different from rest. And lots of times I’m watching Downton because I’m avoiding real work. And when I’m at the beach, I’m on vacation so rest is kind of a requirement.
Over the past year, there have been times when I have felt breathless, never able to catch up, not even sure what I was chasing. I forgot how to plan for rest during hours where I am fully awake, able bodied and not on vacation.
When the twins were babies and they would miss a nap, people who weren’t parents (or hadn’t had babies in a long time) would say to me, Well at least they’ll sleep gooood tonight. But every mama knows that tired babies actually sleep worse.
Not surprisingly, when they rest well, they are also more pleasant when they are awake. Sleep and rest were natural and necessary parts of our lives when we were young.
I never got around to applying that to myself.
What if, instead of saving all my rest up for nighttime or because I have a cold or broke my arm, what if I planned for rest on purpose? Would it make a difference?
I’m slowly recovering what it means to practice Sabbath. I think because we’re made in the image of God, sabbath rest is built into us. We need it. We crave it. But we have all of these Very Important Things to do. Sabbath is lost and rest is lazy.
That word sabbath has never been a pleasant one to me. I’m sensitive to anything that sounds too much like a rule because I come from a background of being very legalistic towards myself. I had a mentor tell me in college that ironing on Sunday was offensive to God and he was not pleased with me if I were to do so.
There are many reasons I don’t like to iron on Sunday, but disappointing God is not one of them. I was devastated. But something in my spirit told me she was wrong, and after that, I didn’t confide in her. But I still didn’t like the word sabbath.
There is a lot I have to learn about Sabbath rest, but one thing I know for sure: God gives us rest as a gift, not a punishment.
I’m beginning to explore what it means to give myself permission to discover those things that make me come alive, and choose a day of the week to do or enjoy those things on purpose, in his presence.
So far, for this season of life, I’ve discovered that having one day a week where I don’t check anything computer-y (Facebook, Twitter, email, even my beloved Instagram) helps me to establish a rhythm of rest. That day of the week, for now, is Sunday. I don’t mop the floors or catch up on all the laundry or clean out the hall closet or my email inbox. I don’t open my laptop at all, really. Instead, I rest on purpose.
I choose things that are life-giving to do, either alone or with the family. I make bread, read fiction, sit outside while the kids play, eat dinner with my high school girls small group.
These rhythms are ever moving, changing to fit the things my family and I desire most. You may love mopping the floor and that is something that is restful for you. Only you know.
Sometimes I try something that doesn’t really work out. For example, a few weeks ago, my mother and sister-in-laws called and said they were going to Home Goods after church and did I want to go? You bet I did! So I went, and I loved being with them. But shopping, as it turns out, was not a life-giving activity for me. I thought it was, but coming home I realized it wasn’t. So now I know to avoid that during the time I have purposefully set aside to practice rest.
“The point of the sabbath is to honor our need for a sane rhythm of work and rest. It is to honor the body’s need for rest, the spirit’s need for replenishment and the soul’s need to delight itself in God for God’s own sake. It begins with a willingness to acknowledge the limits of our humanness and take steps to live more graciously within the order of things.” -Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms
There is no magic or formula or secret. There is only tired you, needing to remember to slow and savor and be. Do you practice an intentional sabbath? Do you do it on Sunday or a different day of the week? What are some life-giving things you incorporate into your daily or weekly rhythm?
ABOUT EMILY FREEMAN
Emily Freeman is a writer who encourages girls of all ages to create space for their souls to breathe. She is the author of two books: Grace for the Good Girl and Graceful. She and her husband live...