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A time to rest

How can we disrupt the busyness and invest in Sabbath rest? asks Bethany Macleod

I’m now back in the office after a week of holiday. Making the familiar commute on Monday morning, there was a notable change in the energy on the train – a real focus that marks only one thing: September.

By now all the holidays are over with: the kids are back in school; students are starting to head back to university; and the rest of us are settling back into our usual routines and rhythms. The train carriage has been fuller this week than it was over the summer, and in the city centre professionals march with intent to their next meetings with briefcase in one hand and their phone in the other – checking their emails or making early calls before arriving at the office.

My friends and I were chatting about this this week, and we all expressed feeling under pressure with some of the upcoming busyness of the autumn. Each of us can struggle to switch off from work, groups and commitments; and sometimes when deadlines are looming these even seep into our dreams. Stress and exhaustion are almost considered trophies of a successful life in the UK today, as opposed to symptoms of a busyness epidemic.

With that in mind, I’ve been really challenged by the idea of intentional rest, and how to incorporate this biblical command into my weekly rhythm as I settle back into routine.

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In Genesis we’re told that after creating the world, God took time to pause and enjoy what He had made. God doesn’t need the time to recuperate, but He knows our needs and has set this example for us to follow, knowing that fulfilling our purpose as working beings also includes having time to pause and enjoy Him, and to enjoy the products of what we’ve achieved through Him.

Tim Keller has written a brilliant article on Sabbath rest, in which he writes: Associated with the Sabbath laws were gleaning laws’, such as Leviticus 19:9, in which field owners were not allowed to reap to the very edges’ of their fields. They had to leave a percentage of grain in the field for the poor to come and harvest. Sabbath, then, is the deliberate limitation of productivity, as a way to trust God and be a good steward of yourself, and declare freedom from slavery to our work.”

I can definitely be guilty of reaping to the edge of my field’. It’s easy to fill up the diary so that every minute of the day is accounted for, but when my head hits the pillow on those nights I’m completely exhausted, having had no time during the day to just enjoy. Hebrews 4:11 reminds us that entering God’s rest requires deliberate effort; we must strive to enter it. It’s not easy in our fast-paced world to forsake our time and our need to get ahead in order to pause. 

Allowing space within the week for relaxation or activity, for spending time with people (or away from them if you’re an introvert!), and for intentional prayer and reflection is an important aspect of a balanced lifestyle, and even reaps benefits at work when being able to come in well-rested and switched on. Does work leak over its boundaries, and do meetings and commitments always take precedence over recreational time? 

At the weekend, I often cram in all the activities I wasn’t able to do during the week. This weekend I’m taking my own advice and have kept my plans to a minimum. I’m really looking forward to meeting friends and having some time to myself to do things that I enjoy. Are you already feeling exhausted from the busyness of a new term? How can you build some Sabbath rest into your week? 

About the author

Bethany joined the team in Scotland in September 2018. Having recently moved to Glasgow from the Isle of Lewis, she is enjoying settling into life on the “mainland” (internet available 24/7? Who knew!). Bethany is passionate about seeing Scottish churches mobilised and serious in their calling to bring Christ into their communities. She is eager to grow and learn from the team in Scotland as she joins in with their projects.

See more from Bethany Macleod

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