The season of holidays is upon us and for many of us that means a chance to put our feet up in the sunshine – unless of course you’re off on a mountain climbing holiday or cycling across Europe – but then that does rather depend how you define ‘rest’! As we head off on family holiday next week I’ve been thinking again about what it means to rest, or to take Sabbath.
As Christians we often talk of the importance of rest – after all God rested on the 7th day (Gen 2: 2-3)
‘And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done’
In fact when God created man, he did so on the sixth day. So for Adam and Eve the first full day they have on earth they spend resting. That’s BEFORE they do any work. And God does have work for them, he created them to work in and look after the garden (and whether you take Genesis literally or metaphorcially, it’s still clearly showing rest before work).
And yet for many of us, it’s rarely that way is it? When do we rest? It is a biblical principal and even if it weren’t I think we’d all agree we need regular breaks, rests or a holiday from all the ‘creating’ we do. Where do you get your rest? How do you get your rest?
A rather wise spiritual director once told me that I should learn what things energise me and what sap my energy, in those I would find the balance between work, rest and play (to quote a once well know chocolate ad).
In this 21st century world, getting real rest is not easy is it? There is always something to do. Even for Christians, actually having a Sabbath, a day of rest, is almost impossible. A friend of mine, Shelly Miller, wrote about Sabbath in her books “Rhythms of Rest” which helps us to look at ways to find rest in modern society.
And I really think it is a word for our time, in the West we are entrenched in a society that is obsessed with working, with filling every hour, with being busy and ‘doing’. I made a vow a while back to stop saying ‘I am busy’ and not using it as an excuse. If we are too busy then that can’t be right, it can’t be what God intended, after all he is the author of time, something I am reminded of on a regular basis! And of course that’s what Sabbath is all about, not just rest, but time to rest with God.
One of my favourite words in the bible is ‘Selah’. We don’t truly know the meaning of the word, but the description I favour most is one that suggests a pause or rest, a break in proceedings to reflect. Probably a musical term or an indication to musicians, it features throughout the Psalms and one can imagine perhaps a stop to take a breath before continuing. It’s a word that has really spoken to me, it says something of rest but also of reflecting on where God is in our rest and in our lives. I even had it tattooed onto my wrist to remind me to take those Selah moments more often. But even as I try to work that into my day, my week, there is also something so necessary about a complete and utter rest. Complete rest from work, from the distractions at home, the to-do lists and jobs, and to have space in our lives and in our minds to rest. And often I find that in those times of giving myself space, I see God more clearly, I can see the way ahead more clearly.
So I for one am looking forward to a few weeks doing very little but hoping also to meet with God in that space, but I also want to encourage you, whatever this summer holds for you, to have a think about how and where you get your rest and finding a rhythm of rest or Selah that works for you…