I’ve done the math. In the past 13 weekends, I’ve been busy for 11 of them: traveling, celebrating, singing, dining out, dining in, seeing loved ones…For an introvert, it’s a lot. And that’s not mentioning the everyday work and life activities.
This means that when somebody asks how I am, I get to smile and sigh, “Busy, but good.” In a world that glorifies busy-ness, it’s quite an accomplishment to truthfully say I’ve been busy. It’s what we all say… what we all understand. There’s just so much to do, to see, to accomplish. We strive to not miss a moment, ‘cause… well, YOLO.
All this busy has made me weary, exhausted, uninspired. Despite this, I’ve adopted the viewpoint that my busy schedule corresponds to my worth. I find myself saying “Wow, I’m so busy, I’m important and worthy. But gosh, how does everybody else do it? I must not be used to being busy. I should get busier.”
That’s right. Stop.
This worldly view of worth does not jive with the gospel. I am saved not by what I do, but by what Christ has done, what God has done, is doing… regardless of whether my schedule is bumper-to-bumper appointments or tumbleweed empty. God loves us and Christ died for us, not because we earned it or deserved it, but because of who he is.
God’s aware of this tendency in us. This is not a surprise to him. We get so caught up in the doing, the seeking, the proving, the helping, that we get swept away. He knows this about us, so he modeled what to do after being super busy (busy doing what? oh… I don’t know, like, creating the entire universe. Yeah, try to compare your busy week to that!). What did God do after this amazing work? Rest.
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done,” (Gen 2:2-3).
We’ve barely made it out of the first chapter of the first book and God’s telling us to rest. But it doesn’t stop there: throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, God continues to remind his people to rest. “Hey, you know that Sabbath thing I talked about? Honor it. Rest from ALL of your work.”
The psalmist even touts how great the Lord is because “He makes me lie down in green pastures,” (Psalm 23:2). Makes me. You would think that any person (let alone any self-respecting sheep) would want to lie down in green pastures. Yet, we don’t. The Hebrew word for the phrase “makes me lie down” is “rabats” and specifically refers to the resting posture of a quadruped: one where the legs are folded underneath. You would literally have to un-rabats to move, to do anything. It’s a serious, whole hearted rest.
Isaiah also uses this word when describing Jesus’s coming:
“The wolf will live with the lamb,
The leopard will lie down with the goat,
The calf and the lion and the yearling together;
And a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox,” (Isaiah 11:6-7).
None of this makes logical, human sense. We know these animals just don’t get along. They’re not going to lie down together. They’re not going to ignore their instincts. Just like when we need to get stuff done, we’re not gonna rest. Nope.
A good shepherd makes his sheep rest. He knows that these fluffy little guys have such a strong herd mentality that they will follow one seemingly-brave sheep off of a cliff. They constantly check in, lifting their heads from grazing, to make sure the herd hasn’t moved off too far. It’s instinct – it’s safer that way, right? Make sure you’re fitting in by doing what everybody else is doing. Stick together! Yet… Sheep are easily-stressed animals. What stresses them out? Basically the entire world (thanks, Wikipedia). And when they get stressed, they won’t rest. Does that sound familiar?
I know when I’m busy or stressed I can work myself into a frenzy. I cannot possibly afford to take a break because I have far too many important things I need to be doing. I see so many successful lives creatively orchestrated on social media. Why can’t I keep my apartment effortlessly clean like my friend’s curated Instagram post? Maybe if I try harder. Every second counts. Every second, the tension builds. As a result, downtime is the first thing to go, then sleep (whether intended or not). Resting is simply out of the question.
God models and instructs us to rest. The Good Shepherd even makes us rest. This rest is for our own good, it lets us reflect on what we’ve done, what God has enabled us to do… what God has done despite our actions. It reminds us of our dependence on him, it allows us to refocus our hearts on him. Rest allows us to get back in step with our Shepherd, realigning ourselves with his call. Like sheep, we are destined for failure and foolishness without rest.
Let God stop you.
I dare you.
- Katherine Ey