Fight for Rest

I’m sure it’s happened to you before. You come home after church and you have five things on a list. You think that you’ll take care of these five little things then have your Sunday nap. Suddenly, it’s five o’clock, you’re hungry, and you’ve been lost in these five things (or lost on the internet) for five hours.

When Jesus said that the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath, he re-introduced an idea that is beautiful and complicated. On the one hand it was easier to live like the Pharisees of the first century who had a number of rules about what was and was not okay to on the Sabbath. How much milk could one drink? A thimble full. How many steps could one take? 1,000. Giving back to the people of God the idea that each one must determine for themselves how to make use of the Sabbath leaves a lot of room for personal application. 

Knowing yourself can help you determine what you need to do in order to make use of the Sabbath. Where are you on the Sabbath-keeping spectrum?

The Closing Time Personality

On one end of the spectrum is what I call the closing time personality. 

In a restaurant at closing time, several little things must be done before the staff can leave. Some of it cannot wait because food can go bad and food borne disease is best prevented rather than cured. There is also the set-up for the next day that must be taken care of in order for the staff to be ready to keep up with tomorrow’s orders. In some ways, a restaurant never sleeps, but the people who work there must.

The closing time personality misses Sabbath rest because there are always a few more little things to finish before rest. They believe they cannot truly come to a place of rest until these things are completed. The dishes must be in the drying rack, or put away. The calendar for the week must be set. The children’s toys or clothes must be put away. That last email needs to be drafted. Then you can mentally and emotionally turn on the sign that says CLOSED and take a well-deserved rest.

However, you never get there because there is no end to the number of small things that you remember as you take of the next small thing. Or just when you sit down to rest after finishing all the things, one more reminder pops up either on your device or in your mind. It’s just one final thing standing between you and rest.

The problem with the closing time personality is that somehow you believe you are achieving a deserved rest through finishing the list. Sabbath, however, is not achieved. It’s received as a gift from God. Sabbath is an act of faith believing that the world can keep turning without your accomplishments for a number of hours.

The It Will Happen Personality

On the other end of the spectrum is what I call the “it will happen” personality.

Attending a conference, I once stayed for week at a hotel that was remodeling. The room rate was slightly discounted because there were some ugly things in the building. There was a wall being repaired. There was some carpet pulled up and a new roll sitting nearby waiting to be put down. Some wallpaper was pulled back revealing water damage that was being cleaned up. As the week went on I realized that nothing changed day by day on any of these projects. None of them had even been touched. Then I saw that the signs that said “excuse our mess while we remodel” had been printed on an old dot matrix printer. I began to wonder how long the hotel had these projects in the works?

The “it will happen” personality is always taking a Sabbath. There is another name for the perpetual Sabbath: procrastination. In its worst form, this so-called perpetual Sabbath is laziness. To be sure, there is an eternal Sabbath rest in Christ promised in the Bible, but what I’m describing here is not that. The “it will happen” personality misses Sabbath rest because they enjoy too little the pleasure of work, even hard work. Bringing something to completion is hard work. Sometimes an “it will happen” personality becomes that way because they are a failed perfectionist. If it can’t be done perfectly, then you will leave it undone rather than face imagined imperfection.

The problem with the “it will happen” personality is that you conflate the Sabbath with every other excuse for not facing obstacles to your work. This person presumes on the kindness of God (Romans 2:4ff.) in giving the Sabbath. The Sabbath rest is sweet for those who seek for glory, honor, and immortality. The self-seeking person finds no rest because they have not done the work of giving.

The Fight For Rest

Let us strive to enter that rest says the author of the book of Hebrews. No one lives at their best or worst extreme. However, thinking about where you may fall on the spectrum can help you repent where necessary and also give you an idea of what to do in light of it. It is an irony that we must fight for rest - especially rest that is a gift from God. We fight against sin in other areas, though, so this isn’t a radical departure from normal Christian living. Jesus calls us to fight against our hindrances. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. What does it look like to cut off the lazy hand that causes you presume on the kindness of God in the Sabbath? What does it look like to cut off the workaholic hand that causes you to ignore God’s gift of the Sabbath?

Sometimes the hardest thing to do with a gift is take it out of the box and set it up. The Sabbath is a gift to you. How will you receive it by faith, unbox it, and enter God’s rest in your life this week?