It’s been a few weeks of no writing. I apologize for my absence, but I tried to take full advantage of our vacation in Oregon. The biggest goal I had while there was to rest and recover from the busyness and the day to day work. Though I love what I do, it can be taxing over time. It can especially be so, if you are like me and you fail to rest any other time. I’m not talking about just getting sleep and not working your job, but even the tasks you have to do at home. Amidst all of those things, you have to make rest a priority.
The time difference between Oklahoma and Oregon is two hours. Now you might not think that is a lot, but when you get use to everything being two hours earlier, it can mess with your internal schedule. We spent a week going to bed at 11pm – 12am PST, which in Oklahoma is 1am – 2am. During our work week, we generally go to be at 10pm here in Oklahoma. You can see now why over the first three or four days of being back I struggled to fall asleep. Jonas seems to have adjusted well, but Eliana is still awake until almost 10pm most nights. Last night was the first night she went down around 9:30. We are slowly working our way back.
What helped me re-acclimate back to CST? After having a night of not being able to fall asleep until 11:30pm, I had to be at a friend’s house by 4:30am to drive him and his family to the airport. I woke up feeling so unrested, but felt like I could manage the drive. After dropping them off at the airport, I took their car back to their house and picked up my own. It was 5:30am by this time and I knew it’d be 10 minutes home plus another 15 minutes to fall asleep. This would then be followed up by my two-year-old waking me up 30 minutes later. So I did what any sensible person would do, went for gas and coffee.
After I got home, spent time reading the Bible and praying, my normal routine began. By the time I got to work at 9am, I was already tired from the day. I couldn’t focus or stay on task. It was a struggle to stay present.
That afternoon, I walked into Greg Fisher’s office so that we could talk about some security measures we have put in place at our church. I sat in his office trying so hard to be fully present and fully engaged. However, my eyes began to glaze over and I began to feel catatonic. I could hear what he was saying, but didn’t know if I was thinking or speaking. The rest of the day was a blur, literally. I couldn’t tell if I was awake or asleep. There was no struggle to go to sleep that night. And the next day, I felt so refreshed after eight hours of sleep.
This got me thinking about what the Bible says about rest. Rest isn’t just sleeping at night, but fully disengaging from the things that cause us the most stress. In the Old Testament, God tells the Israelites to work for six days and on the seventh to observe a sabbath. This means a full day of rest from all work. It’s not just talking about work that the Israelites did to earn money, but also the tasks that one had to do around the house.
In our culture, this is an area in which we struggle. We may have every intention to take a sabbath day, to not do work, but then there are always things to do around the house. “When will everything that I ‘need’ to do get done.” “If I take a day off, I will get behind and then be completely stressed that nothing got done in my absence.” “I’ll rest next weekend. I’ve got to get this done today.” And so, we put off one of the things we need most…rest.
We look forward to vacation because it is a break from all of the work. We get away, leave it all behind, and grab hold of every moment we can. As Jesus followers, we may reconnect with God and declare that from this moment on things will be different. We promise to spend more time reading and praying. Some may even promise to go to church more regularly and even make sure to observe a sabbath. We have a great encounter with God, things change when we get home…at first.
God created a rhythm for our lives of work…rest…work…rest, but we have pushed rest to the side and relegated it to the two weeks of vacation we get each year. So our rhythm looks more like work, work, work, work, r…work, e…work, s…work, t…work. We try to fit rest in when we can, but it’s not a priority.
What I have come to realize is if we don’t plan for it, it’s just wishful thinking. This is true with rest or anything else we want to do in our lives. When we plan for it, we prioritize it and so it becomes something we work towards.
A twenty minute nap isn’t enough. We have to be willing to establish a 24-hour period where we don’t work. When we take an entire day to rest, it causes us to trust God to help us accomplish all of the tasks we see as important. Rest causes us to realize our dependency on God and to trust Him more. When we fail to rest, it’s because we don’t trust that God has everything under control.
Kids and teenagers every year get away for a week of camp to unplug from their daily routines, put aside things that distract to focus in on God. They come back with a new passion to follow God more and change the world. Within two weeks, that passion has subsided and the students are distracted. It happened to me more than once as a teenager. I believe what we need is that camp experience once a week.
We need an experience with God that helps us to unplug and refocus our hearts and lives back on Him. Rest. Breathe. Sabbath. All of our stress would be lifted if we practiced resting in Him by creating a Sabbath. Is it going to be easy? Heck no! You will more than likely fail at it multiple times. Just get back up and try again. God established these rhythms for a reason and its hard to march to the beat of a different drum. There will be many other beats to distract you from God’s, but just keep focusing on Him. It’s the rhythm for which our souls long.