There is Strength in the Resting Place

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It’s day twenty-one of my sabbatical. Twenty-one days of Sabbath rest. Three sets of seven. On day twenty, I was wondering how I would continue doing what I do because, after twenty days, I still had no desire to preach. I had eleven more days to lean into this place of rest, but would it be enough.

Three Sundays before my sabbatical began, I woke up and the feeling of weight came upon me. The weight of carrying a message from God to the people was upon me. And it was heavy. It was difficult to physically stand up under its spiritual weight. At the end of the message, every ounce of oxygen seemed to leave my body and I was limp with exhaustion. I experienced this each Sunday for the last three weeks before I said my last Amen and gave my last benediction on July 29th. I slept for the first three days of sabbatical.

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For the last twenty-one days, I have created a new rhythm. Each day I walk and then I journal and meditate. I have no agenda except to lean into this rest. I am not asking God to speak and I am not looking for answers. Instead, I am resting in order for my soul to reveal who it’s supposed to be.

In Genesis 1, God created. He created space and time. He created matter large and small. He created all we can see and not see. He created humankind in His image. And then He rested.

Jesus said, “My father is always at work.”

Jesus said, “My father is always at work.” So which is it? Did God rest or not?

Yes. He rested. On the seventh day, God rested by taking His hands off of creation. He let go of control and allowed creation to be what it was going to be. God knew that in the resting place creation could become even more.

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It’s construction season here in Michigan. There are orange traffic cones aplenty in every direction. In some places, they have poured cement and moved on to the next project even though the road is still sectioned off. The reason? It takes twenty-eight days for the cement to reach 75% of its potential strength. It’s in the resting that cement becomes stronger and reaches its full potential.

In our own lives, we often fail at resting. And we fail at taking our hands off that which we’ve been creating for the last six days. We never allow it to reach its full potential because we keep messing with it. We have to touch it and poke it and manipulate it “just a little more”. And we wonder why it is stagnant, stale, and slowly eroding.

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In the words of Bob Newhart, “Stop it!”

Stop talking. Stop writing. Stop the business. Stop the planning. Stop the hype. Every day is not Easter Sunday. You must lean into the negative space and let it all rise up. Let the tension go. Feel the feelings. Observe the thoughts that skip across your mind without judgment. And just be. Let what you have been creating be what it is going to be.

On this sabbatical, I have done some “stuff”. I did research and worked on a few projects I’ve been wanting to begin. I’ve done some writing and reading. But most of the things I have done have been personal and private. They are no ones’ business but mine.

So why did the Church give me a sabbatical? What’s in it for them? Nothing. It’s not about them. The Church gave me a sabbatical because it’s the right thing to do. As I lean into this rest, I will become more authentic and healthy. And, eventually, it will make me a more authentic and healthier leader.

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Today is day twenty-one of my sabbatical. It was raining so I didn’t walk in the morning. Instead, I took my mom to breakfast for her birthday. Then I ran some errands, walked, and journaled. In the middle of the day, I started writing a sermon in my head and planning a communion service. Then I stopped and realized that I was writing a sermon and planning communion. In the resting, it rose to the surface without any coaxing. A  compulsion to share good news and space with a faith community rose up within me…because I rested.

Dear reader, you are cheating yourself every time you fail to keep the Sabbath rest. You are cheating your family and your creativity. Your unceasing work ethic is not admirable. It’s idolatry and you are worshipping yourself. Take a page of wisdom from the ancient mystics and learn the art of resting.

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