Gasp! I said it, the “R” word… rest.
Treated almost as a curse word intoday’s society, rest is something we all desire, strive for and work hard to attain, yet it is fleeting and seemingly remains out of our reach… until it is required. Dun, dun, dun…
In much of today’s society, and yes, even in China, we are programmed to be busy… all the time. There are a million trillion things on my “to- do” list which hardly even gets looked at. School keeps us occupied into the wee hours of the night and on the weekends, due dates constantly looming. For us, rest is not something that comes easily.
Which brings me to now. Two weekends ago, Trent and I ran the Great Wall Half Marathon in Tianjin, China. We took a three day weekend and had a delightful time, but the toil that the race took on my body and the stress at school leading up to our absence left my immune system vulnerable to attack. Sadly, on the Monday following the race, I wasn’t worried about my sore muscles (which miraculously were spared) but I was left worrying about a super sore throat… which turned into a brutal cold… which morphed into allergies teaming up with the remnants of that cold… which left me here: tired, sick and exhausted.
You see, if we’re kept busy then we don’t have time to rest, we also don’t have time to self-reflect. Today’s society tends to keep us so distracted and busy that we don’t have time to think deeply, to dream big, or to contemplate life’s truths. So as I was stuck in bed this weekend, I was unable to touch my mile long “to-do” list, unable to start packing and unable to do anything but think and reflect. And so, laid up in bed, I quickly bored of scrolling through endless news feeds on Facebook and there, in the silence, when the noise around me finally stopped, came a still small voice reminding me, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
You see, a few days prior I had been reading a few blogs about the Sabbath, and now, in this quiet time, the Lord spoke to my heart: “man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man.” God knew in his infinite wisdom that we were going to get tired. God also knew that we would need a day to recharge and reflect on the many blessings that are so often overlooked or overshadowed by our busyness. And so there, on my sofa, I repented of my unrestful heart. I repented that for this entire school year every Saturday or Sunday has been spent at school… preparing for the next week, updating Atlas, putting things on my website, staying organized, or bringing anxiety about the week to come. I reflected that God, in his goodness, had to get my attention through sickness in order for me to hear his voice and simply be still.
A verse from Isaiah came to mind that I remember reading a few years ago. It had struck me profoundly then, and it seems to have done the same this time. It says this: “… if you call the Sabbath a delight… and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)
The Lord intended for the Sabbath to be to us a delight! A time to fill us with joy as we look to him to thank him for the blessings of the past week and ask for the strength for the next. It was to truly meant to be a day of rest, of relationship, of renewal. And so, in the midst of all my mucus and phlegm, in between coughing fits and nose blows, I was filled with gratefulness. Thankful that my God gives me strength, thankful that he gives me rest. Not just rest from the physical labors, but deep, spiritual rest: rest for my soul. And he doesn’t stop there. No, if we will take time out to rest in the Lord, he will also fill us with joy! Joy is something that we have lacked this past year. I know deep down that true joy is not determined by our circumstances and although this grueling year has not stolen our deep joy, it sure has made things difficult. We spent far too much of this year dwelling in anxiety and in a state of nearly constant stress. This sickness, as brutal as it has been, has brought me back to a good place, a place where I am able to see things more clearly. A place that is dedicated to honoring the Sabbath, to leaving that day for people, for fun, for reflection and prayer, for gratefulness.
So, for the remainder of this school year (even though there are only two weeks left), we have vowed not to go in on Sunday. We have decided that Sunday is to be a day set apart to worship and spend time in fellowship with others. Sunday will be our day of rest.
***Ironically I wrote this blog a few weeks ago and although it was all about rest and getting away from the busyness of life, I got so busy again that I’m only posting this blog now. However, that being said, we have been keeping our Sundays for us! Here’s to keeping the Sabbath!***