Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sabbath Rest for Dummies

Rarely is the need for rest more evident to me than it has been today. That's a bold statement, considering how I have often been much more tired than I am right now—but it remains true. I worked hard yesterday on a personal project—about 10.5 hours, when all was said and done. That, on top of a long and busy week, left me feeling drained and sleepy this morning. (It probably doesn't help that, with clouds like we had this morning, it's dark until 7:30.

I made the conscious choice midway through the afternoon not to do any more work on the aforementioned personal project this afternoon—I have plenty of time available the rest of the week. Instead, I spent my time talking with a friend, laying down on the sofa with my wife while listening to music, eating dinner, taking a long, relaxing walk with Jaimie, and playing Halo with her (and my sister and her fiancĂ©). It helped. I needed the downtime; I needed to truly rest.

Not long ago, Justin Taylor posted a helpful discussion on whether Christians, who live in the New Covenant, are obligated to observe a Sabbath. I agree with the conclusion he highlighted—that we are not required to observe a particular Sabbath every week—but think the ensuing discussion missed an important point. While we may not have any outside demand on us when it comes to a day of rest, we're pretty silly if we think that God gave it for no reason and accordingly toss it aside with nary a thought.

Americans value productivity over almost any other virtue. As long as you are generating something, somehow, we have little patience for tiredness, rest, and downtime. We are easily bored, frustrated by the slow pace that members of other cultures often enjoy, and obsessed with squeezing every last moment in a day to its fullest (productive) potential. This is bad. Moments are frankly not made to be squeezed. The juice that they ooze out as we wring the last drops from them is sour from overtired, overstrained people who fail to enjoy the good life God has given because they are so concerned with doing something—anything!—with every moment of that life.

Is this obsession not ultimately rooted in our desire to self-validate through our accomplishments? If we can trump our neighbors' number of deeds done, tasks finished, etc., we feel superior to them. If we achieve everything we put on our to-do list at the start of the day, we think the day was a success (even if those tasks were ultimately banal or meaningless). We shuffle aside friendships, trading them for more work, more time spent doing, less time spent being.

Make no mistake: productivity and drive are good things. The problem is that we have made them idols. We have taken a gift and perverted it—how surprising! We cannot take joy in the days God sets before us if we do not slow down enough to actually notice the day itself—if we are so wrapped up in everything we're doing that we miss every sunset, every quiet moment of thought, every delighted outburst of laughter at something silly.

We need Sabbaths. We need rest, a rest that is not only about not doing but about simplicity. Our lives are tangled busynesses—and we take pride in the tangle as well as in the busyness. When we take a step back, set aside the infinite connection to the ceaseless chatter, and simply be with each other, we do far better.

Hint: I'm not necessarily very good at this, yet. I am, after all, typing a blog post on a Sunday evening when I decided to rest. I made this goal, and so I'm keeping it. In the future, however, it seems likely that I will not be typing away at 10:40 pm on a Sunday evening. I will write the blog post earlier in the week, or I will simply take one day off. Rest is important.

I'm only about a week from the end of this experiment—at which point it will be time to reevaluate and see whether posting daily is still a goal I want to pursue. Without a doubt, blogging daily takes a great deal of time and mental energy. It's even more taxing when you're not sure if anyone is reading—so, if you made it down this far, do me the favor of leaving a comment; it's always nice to know who's reading!

1 comment:

  1. I'm reading! And I love 'em!
    Although I imagine with all your other writing, reading, responsibilities, and other personal projects, posting once a day is not something you will want to commit to long-term. Just my guess, though. I'll keep reading either way.


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