Life is in the midst of change for me, this season.
It started by the worst of all betrayals: that of myself.
Dramatic, I know, but the truth is, my body just shut down and refused to go any further. One day I was fine, just tired, and the next day I was curled up in the fetal position wondering what was wrong and hoping I’d be better by tomorrow.
Tomorrow came and went, and then a week’s worth of tomorrows before I faced a terrifying truth: I was not okay and I wasn’t going to be okay if I kept going the direction I had been going.
I knew I had been burning the candle at both ends, as they say. Part of me protests: I tried to keep a Sabbath – one day off a week! I’m not even full-time at work – how bad can it be? and so on. But I knew – I knew – that the pace I was going at was not sustainable. The shock wasn’t that I fell apart, it’s that I fell apart so completely and so far ahead of schedule.
It looked like anxiety: unable to shut off my mind, worrying about worst-case scenarios and feeling helpless against the tide of responsibility that I was drowning under.
It looked like a bad case of the flu: physically nauseous, too exhausted to get out of bed, pounding headaches and loss of appetite.
It looked like relational exhaustion: a phone call took an hour to recover from. Face to face conversation required a nap before I could think again. I couldn’t bring myself to even look at email or check facebook. The people I loved most, with whom I cherished being with, now exhausted me.
It looked like mental fatigue: I couldn’t focus well enough to read a single page in a novel. I spent hours curled up in the fetal position, to exhausted to lift my head for simple conversation. What used to renew me now felt out of reach.
Making room for rest
It didn’t take long for those who cared to send me to get professional help and I learned the true meaning of words I had formerly thrown around carelessly. Burn out and anxiety and boundaries were no longer something you needed a cup of tea or a day off to recover from; they carried the power to forever alter the course of my life. Am I being dramatic? Time will tell, I suppose. But in the meantime, I’m six weeks in and the journey back towards health is painfully slow.
I’m learning what Sabbath rest means.
I was listening to a podcast recently on Sabbath, where they said that the only time the word “busy” is used in the Bible is in relation to Satan – something about his reply to God in the book of Job, where he says he’s been busy roaming to and fro on the earth. I wonder: is that true? I haven’t the scholarship to say definitively, but I do know one of the first things we learn about God in the Bible is his rest. In fact, it’s kind of a big deal throughout the Bible. What did people do in the Garden of Eden? Worked, walked with God and rested. From the very beginning. How will his people be set apart? By their commitment to rest. One day a week off, no matter what. Ten rules to govern themselves, and right beside “do not murder” is “rest” – it’s that important. How will their nation be different? By taking one day a week to completely stop and rest. Even the animals and the land will be given rest. How did Jesus model living? With rest. What do we look forward to? Entering God’s rest.
So how did we get here? To the place where we wear busyness like a badge of honour? Where the harder you work, the more esteemed you are? Where your exhaustion is lauded as evidence of love and commitment? I can’t tell you how many people, after hearing my story, say “I’ve been there too.”
I don’t know, but I do know one thing: it’s time to rediscover rest. It’s time to learn how to laugh again. How to sit and talk about nothing. How to send two people to buy groceries, not because it’s convenient or efficient but because together-ness matters. Time to have vacations – not expensive or lengthy or exotic ones – but memory makers in places and times where everything slows down. Time to sleep, unashamedly.
It’s time to practice Sabbath rest, and you’re invited.