This week, I’ve been away from home at a deserted farmhouse a couple of hours out of Waco working on my presentations for the upcoming Alleluia Conference at Baylor. Perhaps in future columns, I’ll share some of the substance of these sessions; however, this week I’ve been reflecting on the theme of our Sunday’s worship – rest. The sermon centered on Jesus’ instruction to the disciples in Mark 6 to pull away from the crowd and rest.
If you’ve read the passage recently, you might recall that while Jesus could have kept the disciples on-task serving the people, he commanded them to take care of themselves and rest. During worship, we sang about rest, prayed for rest, and we asked forgiveness for trusting ourselves too much and God too little. In all my years of music ministry, I don’t remember ever planning a service around this theme, and as a person who doesn’t rest often or well, it became a convicting experience for me. Consequently, I’ve been ruminating on this subject, and I’m searching for ways that I can intentionally participate in moments of Sabbath more frequently. Here are a few ideas that have been percolating inside me.
Rest has to be intentional If I don’t plan to rest and protect my schedule, time will get away from me, and I will fail to be rested and ready for worship leadership, teaching, and family. Ironically, the very people and situations that most need you to be well rested are often the very same people/situations that keep you from being rested. For instance, our teenage son who wants me to be energetic and ready to throw the Frisbee in the park also is often impatient with my need to take a Saturday and/or Sunday afternoon nap. Likewise, my students who need me to be rested and at my best in class may insist on appointments and mentoring that go too far into the evening. However, it is my responsibility to protect my need for adequate rest and rejuvenation.
Rest can come in many forms Rest is not a one-size-fits-all fix. While running may be taxing and tiring for some, it may be life giving and recharging for others. Likewise, while reading and being alone may help one person to relax and be restored, it may cause someone else to become lonely and anxious. Discovering what Sabbath means to you is key to learning to rest. Often for me, I have to attend to physical fatigue before I’m able to participate in other activities that I can find restorative – cooking, gardening, reading, etc.
Maintain a regular schedule and learn to gauge your peak times While some people are early risers and are productive in the mornings, others thrive on late nights and dislike rising early. As much as possible, maintain a regular schedule even on weekends. If you must deviate, avoid staying up more than an hour or so past your regular bedtime or getting up more than an hour past your normal wake-up. In the long run, grabbing a bonus nap is usually more restorative than trying to catch up by sleeping in for hours on end. Pay careful attention to your peak times, and attempt to be awake and rested at those times. In the long run, you’ll get more done by being well-rested in peak times than pushing through your low moments.
Know your own need for rest Parents quickly learn that not all children have the same needs for sleep. As adults, we are no different. While I have always wished to be the person who can function well on 4-5 hours of sleep; in reality, I can only survive on such minimal sleep for a few days before crashing. Carefully analyze your own need for rest in order to plan your schedule appropriately.
Learn to say “no” and protect times for yourself Be intentional about blocking out times in the week that are for rest and relaxation. When you are asked to schedule appointments during these times, reply that you are busy and already have plans. It is not important always to reveal to others what you have planned. When you follow a demanding schedule on a daily basis, calendaring times to re-group, catch-up, plan, and rest, will assure your long-term stability and success.
Repent from the pride of work Sometimes, I’ve let my ability to work longer and harder than some of my colleagues be a source of pride and arrogance instead of something for which I should repent and ask forgiveness. To fail to rest and take care of my body and spirit is a blatant abuse of who God intended me to be. In a society where the number of hours we work in a given week can earn us bragging rights, we have to counter the workaholic culture by which we are surrounded instead of embrace it and fall prey to its grip. The biblical narrative is clear that God does not applaud our tendency to over-work and under-rest.
Some resources for listening In the process of planning the service on rest, we used the Marva Dawn text Come Away from Rush and Hurry set to the tune BEACH SPRING which is available here.
We also sang the David Crowder/ song, O Great God, Give Us Rest.
I hope you will find these texts helpful. In the days ahead, as you look at your daily and weekly schedules, intentionally block out times for rest. Similarly, be sure that you don’t allow the very people who will benefit most directly from your self-care allow you to feel guilty and pressured when you take time to rest. In the long-term, you will be worth little when your fatigue over-powers your ability to serve and love others. Rest is the only cure for fatigue, and it is God-honoring – even Jesus needed rest, and he was insistent that those closest to him pull away from the crowd in order to return later to the people and serve more effectively.
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