Does rest really work?
So, what sells you the car? the salesman or the test drive? Oh, I’ll take a look at the options available. I’ll keep an eye on the price tag. And I’m not above opting for the color I like. But when it comes right down to where I will invest my hard earned cash, I have to try it out and see if it works. For my needs.
That makes sense, right? Work it out. Letting it rest or sleeping on the decision isn’t…active enough. I think that may be why I find rest so unappealing. Because, on the outside, it looks like a very ineffective strategy. Why rest when there is so much to be done?
I know that God commanded us to rest in Him on the Sabbath. In fact, he was quite explicit and gave plenty of examples:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all our work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. ~ Exodus 20:8-11
But did God really anticipate the 21st century when He said that? All the demands, the opportunities, the pace. He must have meant it for the Hebrews who really needed it. He was all about the rules back then. But today? Resting is so…old fashioned. It seems so…regulatory. Not at all restful. And really, not compelling.
I love Elizabeth Canham’s honesty about this: (Heart Whispers: Benedictine Wisdom for Today, pg 103):
“Foundational to human wholeness is the model of the Creator who rested on the seventh day from every work. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with references to honoring the Sabbath. However, keeping the Sabbath itself does not cause the Hebrews to enter God’s rest any more than my punctilious “no sewing on Sunday” and other taboos in my youth enabled me to experience the gift of rest. Why? Because faith is lacking; stopping becomes a duty severed from relationship with God.”
That’s it. Being commanded to rest makes it feel like a duty. I can force myself to rest but that’s not restful. In fact it’s downright de-energizing. I don’t think that’s why God prescribed it.
A funny thing happens, though, when I take God’s advice and embrace rest. When I actually take it for a test drive to see how it runs. Not a month’s vacation at a sunny resort or even a sleep until noon kind of rest. More of a working restfulness into the other plans I have. A sort of rotating rest into the starting pitchers line up. The time off leaves me amazed at how strong I am when I re-engage with the day’s activities.
It’s totally counter-intuitive: rest makes me stronger. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tried it. Not in a rule-bound way, but an obedient, you-probably-know-best kind of way. Coupled with God patiently waiting for me to work it out myself, the way He knows I need to.
But now that I have given it a try, it really makes perfect sense. We need rest to rebuild. This isn’t just philosophy talk. It’s science. Working (and working out) breaks us down. It stresses bones and muscles and joints causing micro-damage. Resting allows recovery. Literally, the time off to eat, drink, sleep, and socialize is when we rebuild. The weakened places are made stronger. Even our growth hormone secretion peaks while we’re sleeping. We’re made to rebuild while we rest. No wonder it works.
And that’s the funny thing about God-speak. Sometimes, on the face of it, it doesn’t seem to make sense. But when I look in the rear view mirror at how it worked out, it is perfectly clear. Should have been obvious to me the whole time.
No wonder God said, honor the Sabbath. It works. It just seems so unorthodox.
It would have gone so much better for me if I had just heeded the commandment with a willing heart. But no, I had to do it the hard way.
Tomorrow’s post, sneak preview: “A thing at rest tends to stay at rest…”