No rest for the weary. Walking up to church (well, the school in which my church meets), I ran into a friend as I often do but he asked me a strange question. The question may not appear strange, but the way in which it was phrased elicited an even stranger response. “You staying busy?” my friend asked as we were briefly catching up. “It’s not busyness that I have a problem with, it’s the slowing down,” I replied as I soaked in the oddity of what just left my mouth. “I like that,” he said, a smile forming across his face.
We’re asking the wrong question. The strangeness of my friend’s question was only revealed that evening as I sat down to continue reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero. As I began to read about the need for rest (sabbath in the Jewish and Christian traditions), the magnitude of my earlier conversation began to register. Our problem today is that we’re always asking, be it ourselves or others, if we’re staying busy. Busyness means everything. I’d even go so far as to say that busyness today equates to social currency. The less time we have, the more important and valuable we are in society.
Quiet time isn’t enough. I’ve heard about taking regular rest before, but honestly I’ve come to believe that if I spend my half-hour with God everyday I’ll be sustained to the next. This isn’t how it works. When God created the earth, even He rested to showcase our dire need to rest and regularly. When I don’t rest, and I rarely if ever do, I go into the next week only feeling drained and reticent to begin a week that feels tacked onto the last. Life becomes grueling.
What is this sabbath? Really, as we are all unique, it is whatever we want to make of it. However, it is a concentrated, uninterrupted 24 hours where we separate ourselves from the things which stress us. More than a few times, Jesus showed that what to some feels like work or labor, to others is relaxing. So, maybe you need to stay away from your work, physical activity, technology, people, etc. Find what works for you, but listen: this is the time you most of all need to spend with God, not talking at Him or making demands of Him.
How do I be with God? Patience and time. It will not come immediately. Everything in our world, our culture speaks against the quieting down and idleness of sabbath. You will feel resistance from within and the world without you. Do not fear, the world will continue turning without you being glued to your cell phone. Spending time with God requires you to focus on just God. It is slow, deliberate breaths that can help keep you centered and thoughts directed at God. Those thoughts can be admiration, praise, questioning, even doubt. The point is to focus on God and Him alone. The key, however, is then to be silent. For how long? As long as it takes. For a people who struggle with 15 seconds of silence, it could feel pretty long, but He will answer.
We all struggle for one reason or another with resting and being silent. For me, it’s a matter of needing to earn God’s approval. What is it for you? What is it that keeps you pressing onward, continually perpetuating the weariness we all experience? What is it that tells you your weariness is what’s to be expected? What is it that draws you away from regularly resting and going to God to rejuvenate your soul? What is it that keeps you from being with God? These are questions we all need to answer, otherwise we’ll find there really is no rest for the weary.