Imagine if you would a tropical beach by lush, green mountains. There’s white sand sifting through your toes while you hold your fruity drink to your lips. Your tan is turning out well, nice and toasty and even. And you have nothing to worry about, because work’s in another hemisphere, huddled there with your anxieties, insecurities, and depressive triggers. You survey the lonely but lovely scene before you, scanning across the surfers on the horizon’s waves, focusing briefly on the fronds of the palms that sway in the heat of midday. And the salty mist from the water that breaks on the shore: it’s a fine caress on your exposed skin. All the while, you are thankful to be awake to enjoy this kind of Sabbath rest.
Sometimes we need to chill, but just enough to enjoy our breaths, not enough to fall asleep. When you’re on that getaway, stretch out on your beach towel and breath in deeply. Breathe in so your belly rises, like you’re gonna sing when you exhale. That’s a good feeling right there, your body full of actual fresh air, not the recycled office building kind. And you can close your eyes if you want, you won’t miss a thing, because your other senses take over to fill you like the breath does. You feel the stretch in your chest start to release as you exhale, and as your eyes gently close, your lids collapse like sand into your cheeks. There’s no forcing them shut, it all feels natural and their junction cool. We were designed for this, for the pleasure of takin it easy, if only for a while.
You see, I believe if God designed us for something, He’s equipped us for that task. And He designed us to need a rest now and again. Just look at sleep: deprive yourself of that and you risk causing or worsening anxiety, depression, anger: a whole gamut of negative emotions from our soul being out of joint. But today I’m not talking about restful sleep, but instead wakeful rest. It’s something we might call a Sabbath rest.
The society God gave the Sabbath rest to was an agricultural one. That meant they spent every waking hour working in fields with their crops and cattle, maybe selling meat and vegetables, and always worrying about the dangers of predators and war. They wore themselves out just to assure a basic food supply and the survival of their children. Yet God commanded them to take a day off from the toil. A revolutionary thought, indeed, and probably a little scary for them. Because taking that Sabbath day off meant trusting that God would provide for the missing day of work. Can you do that? Trust Him?
God made that day holy (i.e. set apart) for rest from our labors, and he asked Israel to trust He’d take care of things that day. Literally chill on that day, He commanded Israel. I don’t believe we’re required to keep it anymore, but that it certainly is a great idea. Just like your getaway to this tropical island was a great idea. And I want to encourage you to not sleep this rest away, but to stay awake and experience the rest, to enjoy it, to derive pleasure from it.
And you find pleasure pouring like honey. Because as the sun goes down, and the cool breeze tickles your chest, you curl your toes deeper into the sand. You turn to the side where you’ve been building a castle, and you lazily run your finger along its contours in exploration. You mind starts to wander, coming up with an adventurous queen who lives in this castle and her dragon knights who extract her from the danger she so much loves. These imaginations crowd out what’s left of your workweek worries, the obligations you piled high at the social buffet, and any little sand crab of a discomforting thought that wants to pinch your soles. Instead your soul rests, your eyes focus on the pinks, reds, and flaming orange of the evening, and your mind follows those soaring dragons that you know are just clouds. Another breath, slow and full, expands your tanned body. Another exhalation, slow and quiet, leaves you like a ghost would.
You are resting from your labors.
I clink my drink to yours, grin, and say, “Maybe God had a good thing going with this Sabbath thing, eh brah?”