To Do: Nothing

todo

There are seasons in life where you learn to just hang on for the ride. My family’s in one of them now.

For several weeks, we’ve been in the middle of preparing for an interstate move (with husband there and me here), trying to find the “perfect” house (which apparently doesn’t exist), finishing all the end of school year activities for two kids, and trying to occasionally write interesting blog posts (although at this point I’d settle for adequate). And through it all, the one major take away has been learning that human beings were not intended to subsist on six hours of sleep a night, diet coke, and chocolate.

I confess I’m pretty much an idealist. In my world, if I want something badly enough, if I work hard enough, and if I just commit to making sure it happens, it will. Food, sleep, rest? What are those? They’re simply props for the weak. And yet, what I’m discovering—once again even after several decades on this planet—is my own weakness. I’m learning about my inability to do it all, how quickly stress affects every part of me and my tendency to be really mean when I’m overwhelmed.

But thankfully, this week I re-learned something even more important.

This last Sunday—after wrestling three kids into dress clothes (which included discovering that child #2 cheekily grew out of ALL his pants overnight), brushing teeth, combing hair, and screaming at them to get out the door so we wouldn’t be late (which we were)—I finally sat down in church. Only to be confronted about thirty minutes later with this verse:

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.”

Our pastor didn’t spend a lot of time on it; but the Spirit did. “Hannah, even in plowing and harvest, you need rest. Even in the busiest times of life—the times that would make the most sense for you to keep working—you must rest.”

Many of us probably grew up acknowledging Sunday as “the Lord’s Day,” but I’m not so sure that an equal number of us grew up with the idea of Sabbath rest. We were not under such law. We were “free” in Christ. But unlike a lot of people think, Sabbath isn’t rooted in archaic blue laws or spiritual legalism. It’s rooted in trust and faith. Because when you take a Sabbath, when you take time to rest, you express your faith in a God who works for you so you don’t have to. And you show that you trust Him enough to stop. Stop all the rushing. Stop all the worry. Stop all the chaos.

And you allow tomorrow take care of tomorrow so that you can do what you need to do most—nothing.

So that’s what we did this last Sunday after coming home from church. Despite having a messy house (no, I mean a disastrously messy house) and needing to have it cleaned by 3:00 the next day, my kids and I took the day off. McDonald’s, books, long naps, a walk around town—hey, I even got crazy and put up a tent in the middle of the living room floor just for the fun of it. All in an effort to teach them and myself that God expects us to relax and rest in Him. I want them not only to see a mommy who is driven to reach her goals, but a mommy who trusts Jesus enough to let Him be the One to get her there.

Because ultimately the stakes are that high. While Sabbath is about physical recuperation, it’s more than that. Sabbath is a lifestyle. Sabbath is gospel. It’s a view of the world that says I don’t have to work because Christ already did. I don’t have to fret and fuss and get my righteousness in order, because Christ already did. I can rest. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

And just so we won’t forget that, God reminds us once every seven days. Because in some sense too, Sabbath is practice—practice for that long-awaited, glorious day when there is no more work, no more tears, no more sighing. And so we learn to rest in Him today so that one day, we can rest in Him for all eternity.

[node:bio/handerson body]

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There are 13 Comments

Joel Tetreau's picture

I'm not ready to write a full-blown article on this - but I will say this for just now. One way pastors and leaders could help congregants experience Sunday's as a day of corporate worship and individual/family rest is to figure out a way to simplify our corporate worship to where church members aren't going to Sunday School, then AM worship, then a pre-PM worship, PM worship and then something after PM worship. No wonder many of our core leaders in our churches are exausted. In the last year we took the ministry from AM and PM and we re-organized our monring service. We get to church a little earlier - and we stay a little later - but by 12:30 we are usually done for the day. Our family usually takes a new or visiting family out to lunch which means by 2:30 we have eaten lunch and are ready for an afternoon of rest (both physically and family-oriented). Coinciding with that has been a "re-emphasized weekly small group ministry." I can't even begin to tell you how helpful this has been to the entire congregation. I wish we would have done this years ago. Each congregation has to do what is effective for them. I'm sure in some settings Sunday PM ministry is simply too effective to shelve. That was not the case at SVBC. Hopefully we would all agree that the most imporatant priority is the accomplishment of Biblical objectives for the NT church not the maintaining of a Sunday service model based a primarily "agricultural setting" (more on that when I write the article). This kind of a Sunday "re-org" allows families the opportunity for "real rest" on the First day of the week. It also gives our families the flexibility for occasionally inviting a lost neighbor over or even another family from church over for ministry-oriented "inter-action."

Great article - Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Ron Bean's picture

8:00 am Men's Prayer Meeting
9:00 am Coffee Fellowship
10:00 am Sunday School
11:00 am Church
3:00 pm Nursing Home Service
5:00 pm Choir Practice
6:00 pm Evening Service

Amen, Joel!

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Rest is not really inactivity. I do think church schedules get a bit ridiculously full. But in my experience, people fill their time with activity of some sort, or go to sleep. So rest is filling it with the right things. (And how much work is a worship service, really?)

What most Americans do on Sunday is watch sports on TV or do recreational stuff at the lake... at least in the summer time.
The rest they really need is that of worshiping with God's people or perhaps worshiping alone.

So I guess my point is that what rests you is relative to what has tired you.
(In Hannah's case... too much work of any kind, hence "To Do: Nothing" ... but they did do things. Just nothing that was "required" or urgent.)

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

'Rest' is different things to different people. My husband rests by puttering in the garage or backyard- which is why our backyard jungle gym now needs its own zip code. I feel rested after reading, but also after cleaning out a cluttered closet or rearranging furniture. The kids and I rest on occasion by sitting around and talking about everything and nothing. Doing 'nothing' in the literal sense drives me up a wall- I'd rather have a root canal without Lidocaine.

Just because we don't have our Bibles open in front of us, though, doesn't mean we aren't doing something 'spiritual'. Taking a hike with the family offers time to reflect on the complexity and beauty of creation. My kids look at our little garden, and talk about how plants grow, (drooling over the prospect of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers) and say "Yeah, like that all happens by accident".

I agree with Aaron that it is important to take a specific kind of rest by reading and meditating on the Bible, and worshiping God.

IMO church schedules are often quite arbitrary, and since most meetings and activities are not Scripturally mandated, I'm not all that concerned with being there 'every time the doors are open', as is often preached. I'd almost never be home, and I'd seldom see my husband. I'm all for meeting on the first day of the week, though, and having that time to just sit and reflect on spiritual things, and try not to compose my grocery list in my head while the preacher is preaching. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-ashamed001.gif[/img ]

Joel Tetreau's picture

Susan.....yes let me afirm that determination of yours - not to focus on your shoping list when the preacher is preaching. May your tribe increase! Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I find that when I have my life in order and I'm guiding the house properly, I not only have time for many more fun and relaxing things, but I can focus better when I need to. Now that I can keep my task list and grocery list in my smartphone, my mind doesn't wander as much as it used to, in church and elsewhere.

It also helps if the speaker has the skill to present truth in an interesting and meaningful way. And interesting does not mean swinging from the ceiling fan.

As described in the OP, however, there are times when circumstances beyond our control throw us for a loop. It is OK to take the time needed to deal with those things.

Dick Dayton's picture

Before the Lord drew me to Himself, I was considering a move from total secularism to Judaism. I worshipped each Sabbath. In the Jewish culture, the Sabbath begins on Friday at sundown, and there is an opening song in the worship to welcome the Sabbath. It is as though the Sabbath is the bride coming down the aisle, and we worshippers are the groom eager to welcome her and to enjoy her presence.
Remember that Christ said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. In Genesis, God "sabbathed," that is, He took time to reflect upon what He had created. Sabbath should be a time for family, for worship, for reflection, for refreshment.
We have chosen to do things like choir practice on Sundays so that we do not ask our people for another day in their crowded week.
I recently saw a news article about "supercomuters," people who travel long distances to and from work. If I were to minister in that group, I would have to radically rethink the entire church schedule.
We need to remember the principle of "come apart and rest for a while." Many years ago, I came across a book that had a title like "When I Relax I Feel Guilty." We can be obsessed with busyness and production, even in our walk with the Lord.
We need to keep our lives in balance between activity and times of rest and reflection.
In America, we tend to be a "driven" culture. As believers in Christ, our lives and priorities should often be "counter cultural," with seeking as highest priority His kingdom and righteousness, and not being so driven in our material desires and schedules.
Early on in my Christian life (I have now been saved 46 years) people said, "I would rather burn out than rust out."
How about running well oiled for a longer time ?
For me, the Sabbath principle means that I start winding down my mind and life late Saturday afternoon, so that my soul will be ready to embrace worship on the next day.

Dick Dayton

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Thinking of the OP, what with getting kids fed and ready to go, cooking dinner, preparing for a Sunday School class, practicing with the choir, babysitting in the nursery, and sometimes entertaining or cooking for a fellowship/potluck, Sunday can be the busiest day of Mom's week. I'm wondering- how many men here make sure your wife gets the day 'off', and how do you go about helping her with that?

Paul J's picture

It is interesting to look at Sabbath from an Israel post slavery perspective. They had just left a culture which most likely included 7 day workweeks sun up to sun down. We also have really no information saying they had a connection to God during the time before the Moses and the plagues. Can you imagine the rhythm, this new concept created? Work and rest and know me, an Almighty God!

We have Saturday evening services at our church which gives a very unique opportunity for sabbath on a Sunday.

Larry's picture

Moderator

I agree that churches need to think very carefully and intentionally about their structure and time issues. A recent Sunday was very refreshing in not having an evening gathering.

But is the best way to get rest at the expense of more exposure to the Bible, the fellowship, prayer, and worship? Why is it that these discussions never seem to include the idea of encouraging a radical restructuring of Saturday to get a day of rest? That would seem to be a Sabbath rest. We could do the radical thing of calling on families to skip children's ball games, have mom do the grocery shopping on Thursday while dad mows the lawn. Get the errands run other times. That way Saturday is wide open for rest.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Sometimes, the only way I "rest" is by enjoying some good humor. There is a "letting go" involved whenever a human being laughs.
One of God's greatest gifts.

... and I bet when Hannah and family did the tent in the living room thing there was a lot of laughter.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

We can no longer take for granted that folks have Saturday off. My hubby works 10 hour days, Mon-Sat. Sunday is his only day off, and even then he occasionally has to take care of a special need on Sunday(he works for an equipment rental company). Emergency responders, law enforcement, medical personnel, aviation, military... many vocations require unusual and unpredictable schedules. It just ain't Mon-Fri and 9-5 anymore.

We always make the 'regular' services, unless the usual 'providential hindrances' prevent it. But it's the special meetings, revivals, and other activities that we sometimes have to say "No" to.

Quote:
...if I want something badly enough, if I work hard enough, and if I just commit to making sure it happens, it will. Food, sleep, rest? What are those? They’re simply props for the weak.

I have felt the same way- then there's always guilt trippin' for taking a nap, sleeping in, reading a book when I could be out doing something 'spiritual'. We can get caught up with trying to meet the challenges of the 'heroes of the faith' who never seemed to sleep, ate bugs for lunch, and generally threw themselves on every spiritual grenade that came their way. But each one of us has to ask God what He demands of us personally.

As a wife and mother, I'd be remiss in my God-ordained priorities not to see to the needs of my family first. He doesn't call me to neglect my husband or kids to 'serve' Him. Taking care of my family IS serving Him. I also have a responsibility to those who are my immediate family and neighbors. Why would I go across town every week to 'win souls' when I live in a suburb with hundreds of people that I can built relationships with and reach in a consistent and meaningful way for the Lord? When we are doing the first things responsibly, God can trust us to do other things.

But often there is no glory in that- it isn't as visible and measurable. It 'doesn't count' because we weren't part of a coordinated church effort or official function. So we wear ourselves out trying to do things that others can see and approve of.

handerson's picture

And I would only add that, like Aaron pointed out, doing "nothing" for me was more about removing the weight of duty and obligation than a legalistic approach to not working. It was about my own messiah complex and about how I was relying my ability to make things happen--which expressed itself in my lack of sabbath. On reflection, this discussion reminded me a lot of the sentiment of Psalm 127:1-2:

Quote:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

(Which ironically enough is followed by the verses about children being a blessing... hmmmm....)

And I would second Susan's point about Sunday being the busiest day of the week for many moms--growing up my mother-in-law always fed my husband's family leftovers and pb&j for Sunday lunch. A tradition I was only too happy to inherit.

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