We are your typical church-going family. If it’s Sunday and we are home, it’s not a conversation of “what should we do today?” We go to church. It’s not a legalistic thing, or an obligation, or an attempt to try to tip the scales in our favor because we’ve been SO sinful in the past weeks (that was actually my motivation for going to church for the entirety of my early 20s), no, we go because we love it.
Worship in singing with hundreds of other people who love Jesus is powerful; hearing a message that calls you out of your slumber, calls you up to who you really are, reminds you of the God who is bigger than your life, your sin, your trial; I need to be a part of that every week.
We skipped church over the 4th of July weekend to take a 4 day trip to Lake Roosevelt, as we like to do a few times each summer. Part of me felt a twinge of guilt for missing church, but mostly I just missed my people.
As I was missing my church family, I was really pondering what exactly it was that I was missing. As I stood on the sand Sunday morning, looking out over the wind-rippled water, I realized that we do church to honor the Lord, embrace the Sabbath that he carved out for us, and to gather with the body of believers that we belong to.
In our generation it’s been the super cool thing to disdain church, walk out, describe oneself as “spiritual but not religious” or “a believer in Jesus, but not into the whole church thing”. I won’t go into my whole philosophy on this other than to say: the bible is clear that Jesus and the church go hand in hand.
Now that we have that clear, I have to say, worshiping Jesus beside the lake, with my little microcosm of a church (my immediate family), and REALLY experiencing Sabbath rest, was tremendously restorative for my tired soul. It all took me very much by surprise.
On Sunday morning I turned on a couple of my favorite songs and sang along while I was looking at cliffs made of rock that looked like it had been chipped away at for eons to get them to look just right. Behind me was a forest of tall pine trees that swayed along with the rhythm of the day. The water was the perfect blue, fading to green and then to tan as it hit the sand. The wind was barely there, just calm enough to ripple the surface.
As I drank in the surroundings that evidenced my Creator at every turn, I experienced a moment of transcendent worship that will forever stay in my memory.
Fast forward to midnight that night. We were driving back to our beach in the boat, in the pitch black, 20 miles from where we had gone to see fireworks. I went down below and put the boys to bed and fell asleep briefly. I woke up and joined Kevin up top, where he immediately said “Look at the sky”. (He knows my love language is spoken in skies).
It was the blackest night sky I’ve EVER seen. Lake Roosevelt is national park, which means it’s largely uninhabited, not commercialized. That can be a pain when you’re trying to find parts to fix your broken boat, but on the flip side it creates a place of quietness, peace, and beauty.
This night was no exception. The sky was black, but layered with a depth of stars I’ve never seen before. It was like all the stars I’ve seen in our hometown night sky had a bunch of babies. The milky way looked like I could have just reached up and touched it. There was no moon, not even a sliver. Nor were there any clouds. It was just completely unreal. Of course you can’t get a picture of that with an iPhone (and of course I tried)
I never wanted that night to end, and I swear my neck was sore the next day from looking straight up at that sky.
Our days there were filled with sitting on the beach, preparing simple meals, reading, playing with the kids, listening to music, fishing, and driving around that beautiful place admiring God’s glory revealed to us in His creation.
It was the first time in months that I experienced real rest. I came home feeling restored and had new eyes to see things, new energy for my family, and new grace for everyone.
When God outlined life for us, more specifically commanded us on how we are to live, He set apart a weekly sabbath.
I’m thinking He knew what He was doing. When we don’t take time to rest, the anxiety sets in, the to-do list never shuts up, and we lose our ability to experience him in the stillness of the day; the pause in the chaos that can only come when we stop doing.
Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly busy juggling the logistics of three kids, and a very busy lifestyle that comes with a husband who works full time in addition to running 30 acres of orchard. Looking back I see that I have rebelled against God by either subtly or blatantly deeming myself “too busy” to shift into sabbath rest on the regular. I’m skipping the regular times of restoration that are crucial to life here on earth.
Many times when we think of restoring, we think of laboring. Like an old farmhouse that is made beautifully new on Fixer Upper. There aren’t many days on the couch spent by Joanna & Chip when they are working on a project.
My mind doesn’t drift toward thinking I need to bring life to a screeching halt when I need soul-restoration, rather I tend to pick up the pace, thinking if I can accomplish all the things, then I can create a restful, restorative environment.
As I’m thinking about how ragged and worn I feel most days, I’m realizing that I’m not embracing God’s way of restoration in my own life. While I’m pushing and striving trying to get to a place of new-ness, He’s telling me to take a seat. He makes me new in the stillness. The whole thing feels backward.
My own backward anti-rest ways have brought me to a place of anxiety, stress, and feeling frantic; as though no matter how fast I work and how efficiently I do things, it’s never enough.
It’s time for a change.
I’m going to try to be brave now and trust that God knew what He was doing when He commanded us to embrace rest as a regular part of life. Maybe when I rest I’ll have moments of spiritual clarity where the noise is cut enough for me to actually hear from the Lord. Maybe my body will respond to my soul being at rest, and my eye will stop twitching (true story). Maybe my laundry will be piled to the roof and I’ll still be able to say ‘not today’ and turn away from that heap of clothes to just sit with my kids or take a nap.
I know that it will require the Holy Spirit to do a great work in my striving soul to allow me to give myself the God-ordained time out that is not a recommendation, but a requirement for a life of flourishing in this broken world.
The bible says that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man. God has given us this as a gift and it’s part of the holistic life of following Christ. It recharges us, reconnects us to our creator, and reminds us that we are completely dependent on him.
There’s an old Puritan saying, “Good Sabbaths make good Christians.” I’m embracing that. I’m flipping striving on it’s head, and I’m making it my aim to become proficient at resting in the way God has commanded me to. I trust Him that he can keep the world spinning if I take the day (or days) off.
Will you join me in this?