I love that Heather Tencza’s post about choosing rest just happened to land on the week that I’m away on vacation. It just seems kind of perfect, doesn’t it? Heather is a beautiful writer who authors the blog Pilgrim Sandals, about finding the beauty in unexpected paths and the dust on our feet. She did an outstanding series this past fall about her own “on fire” days in response to my book release, which I LOVED (the first post is here). Read this, and then head over there to read more from her!
In my high school days of black and white Christianity, I argued vehemently that no work should be done on Sunday. To do so would be to go against the Ten Commandments. Though I don’t see things quite the same way now, I have found the blessings of a day of rest over and over throughout my life. It is a change that I have to recommit to now and then, and when I do, I rediscover the blessing.
As I said, I started refraining from my ordinary work on Sundays when I was in high school. Most of my friends said they were too busy to pause from homework. Their busyness made me question my own worth, but it was my first lesson in a day of rest; resting proves that I am not defined by my work. It reveals my idolatry–how I want to be busy, successful, and constantly doing.
One immediate blessing was a mind free from distraction during church. Then afterwards if I wanted to go on a walk with a friend, I could. I had time to nap. I had time to volunteer. I had time to write to family and friends. I loved the distinction between Sunday and the rest of my week, and some of my best memories are from high school when I started each week refreshed and excited.
College came, and my view of Sunday as a day of commanded rest changed, I often spent Sunday afternoons and evenings writing papers, cramming for tests, and catching up on course reading. I was focused solely on myself and what I needed to do. But I knew I was missing something when I lost the gift of that day of rest.
When I found my day of rest again, I also found another blessing. Working Saturday and Sunday made me feel scattered; I worked here and there and not always very productively. However, when I set aside Sunday, I worked diligently on Saturday to have that day free. When I had this balance in my life, I was better attuned to the needs of others. Instead of hurrying and rushing, I stopped and listened.
During my years of teaching, I started working on Sunday again. It seemed silly to reduce my productivity, and the papers did not grade themselves. There were even times that I guiltily skipped church out of exhaustion then spent the afternoon grading. I began to burn out.
During this time, my mind was consumed by work–always distracted by what needed to be done next. I became resentful of anyone who wanted my time, whether my husband wanted me to watch a show with him or a student stopped by my classroom to talk before school. I was focused only on my own to-do list. Only the rhythm of a day of rest pulled me away and helped me realize that life is not all about me, and my life is not always about doing.
Now that I am a mom, I can’t just stop all of my ordinary daily work on Sunday. But recently, I have ceased the never-ending housework on Sunday. It can wait. This gives me more time for my husband and baby, more time to nap and rest, and more time to take those long, leisurely walks. It keeps the days from just blurring together.
When Jesus and his disciples are criticized for eating grain on the Sabbath, Jesus says that the Sabbath was created for man rather than man being created for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). This is what Sunday has become for me more than anything else: a lesson in grace. I am too often consumed by guilt–the guilt of working too much or the guilt of resting too much. But we are not to be defined by how hard we work or how much we do. Rather we are to be resting in his grace and extending this grace to others. I am learning and re-learning this as I accept this gift.
Heather is an English teacher turned mom.
She writes about faith, teaching, health and wellness, and her life with my husband and baby boy (born July 2013) at her blog, Pilgrim Sandals.