I don’t know if it’s true, but I once heard that the 70 years the Israelites spent in Babylonian captivity was one year for every sabbath year they didn’t take while they were living in the promised land. You see, they were instructed by God to allow the land to lie fallow every seventh year and to live on whatever sprung up in the land without their working it. What if the land and the people were so desperate for sabbath rest, and the captivity was God’s gracious way of giving it to them? Seventy years of not being in charge, not being responsible for everything, but just taking directions and doing what they were told.
Now, I don’t particularly like being told what to do anymore than the Israelites must have liked living in Babylon. However, in my current life stage, I get kind of tired of constantly being in charge of everything. In my family, in my work, in my social life, in my community life, in my health, in my finances – it’s me thinking of what would be good to do and me taking the initiative to do it. What if our systems were designed so that one year out of seven, and one day out of seven, we didn’t have to make anything happen, but we could receive without effort? While I’m not quite sure how that would work, I have to admit, it sounds rather pleasant.
Except I’m not very good at resting and receiving. When I get in the habit of being in charge and making things happen and being the giver, it feels very strange when it’s different than that. While my body might be designed to require a weekly sabbath day – a day of not working, not producing, not being in charge – I’ve lived 40 years of pushing through and continuing to do the work. The transition from work to rest is uncomfortable – unless, of course, I’m falling into bed exhausted – that’s easy. But recognizing my body and my mind’s need for rest before it’s critical, while I am still functional, and choosing to stop working – that requires a kind of discipline that is hard for me. The part that is even harder is that very few people are lining up to applaud me for being good at resting.
Imagine the following scenarios: a friend comes up to me and asks, “How was your week?” and I respond, “I’ve been practicing resting, and I’m getting pretty good at it.” What would you say to that? Or my boss comes up to me and asks, “How was your work this week?” I reply, “I’ve been working hard at having a reasonable pace, so I didn’t get as much done, but I feel alive and healthy, I’m nicer to my family, and I have energy left to work again next week.” Umm, not impressed.
But what would the Lord say to me? I think it’s a question worth asking, since really, does any opinion matter more than His?
I imagine He might say something like this, “I love it when you honor the needs of your body. I designed you with limits, and it’s good for you when you attend to those. I created you for so much more than just work. Yes, work is necessary, but it’s so easy for your relationship with work to get out of whack. That’s why I’ve designed you to need sleep every night. Do you notice that the sun rises and sets every day without you doing anything about it? Could that be true of other things in your life, too? Maybe your striving and your tight grip on control are not as necessary as you think they are.
“Have you ever watched the eagle fly? Notice how they flap their wings, but then they spend a lot of time gliding on the wind. You were made to fly, Beloved. Catch the wind of my Spirit, and you will notice that you need not expend so much energy all the time. Flap, glide, enjoy. This is the rhythm I intend for your work.
“Do not worry if you can’t imagine what that might look like practically. For now, you might do well to just connect with the feeling of soaring and consider the possibility of living like that. Flap, glide, enjoy. I will guide you toward the reality at a pace that is just right for you. I want you to live an unburdened life even more than you want it for yourself. I am working on it. I’ll let you know when there’s a way for you to participate. For now, take a deep breath and remember my presence with you now. I am so delighted with you.”
But those who trust in the LORD
will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
~ Isaiah 40:31(NLT)
Thank you, Lord, for your gracious presence and guiding. I want to interact differently with my life and work and responsibilities. Thank you that you are showing me the way. Thank you that you are pleased with me now, before I figure it out. I love that about you. Amen.