Making Time for Rest

Our society worships the god of productivity.

When I was at my college reunion, one of my old roommates and I heard a talk about the intersection of calling and sabbath.  It’s not a juxtaposition I had considered before, but the speaker made the point that many of us are so spun up over finding our calling, finding our mission, making an impact, leaving a legacy, and so forth, that we just go, go, go without taking time for the contemplation and quietness and avocational rest that we need to hear God’s voice on the matter.

Further, he pointed out, the reason we don’t make time for the concept of sabbath is that, consciously or  subconsciously, we think it’s a waste of time.  We think our worth and identity comes from our productivity, from our accomplishments, and that taking time out to “just” rest is a setback.

Granted the speaker was talking to a room full of card-carrying overachievers, but I think his points are broadly applicable to the culture.  People are so BUSY, and sometimes the activity seems to be for the sake of being busy.  I think our culture really does measure at least some aspects of a person’s worth by how much she has to do or how productive he was over the weekend.

So what does it mean to build rest into your schedule?  The speaker brought up that a sabbath will look different for different people – but that you could begin your thinking on the idea in three categories:

1. Avocational work – That is to say, if you spend most of your time on the computer, your sabbath might mean taking a break from screens and maybe getting outside or doing something totally different, whereas if your 9-5 is landscaping, you might save catching up with friends on email for a sabbath activity.

2. Contemplative work – Spending time in worship, in study, in prayer, in meditation, and so forth helps you to get perspective of “the story beyond your story” and keeps you from thinking that your goals are God’s goals.

3. Unstructured time – If you have every moment planned (or overplanned), you never leave time open for God to bring something or someone unexpected into your life.  Having unstructured time means that when you hear of a pressing need, you can stop and help.  Or when you get an unexpected chance to fellowship, you can take it.

As I’m looking ahead at my schedule for the fall, which in some ways is getting simplified and other ways is becoming more complicated, I am challenged to really think through how and why I build in time for rest or not.  It’s challenging to think about why I allow myself to get busy and when (or if) I’m really leaving space in my life for God to work.

What do you think?  Is rest hard for you, or have you found ways to build a sabbath into your life?

One thought on “Making Time for Rest

  1. For our family, we try to keep Sunday afternoon as our unstructured time and that has worked pretty well. Saturday is usually our avocational time where we do something outside or clean since we don’t do those things on a daily basis. The contempletive work is the challenge. (I like how you called it “work” though. If we say we can’t do any work on the sabbath then we’d be missing out on a lot of restful activities that could be considered work.) My body tells me I need rest and fresh air and exercise which for me is easier to hear than my soul telling me I need time in the Word or prayer. I see contemplative time as unproductive. Being outside occupies the kids and gives me exercise so that’s productive but time in the Word requires me to be away from the kids for a while and/or lose sleep (which is that physical rest I know I need). And I don’t see immediate fruit from contemplative time usually. So I think that’s why it’s harder for me. Plus it requires me to be still and slow my mind down which is hard to do too.

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