Article by: Aaron Shaw, 6/21/2016
I’ll be the first to say that summer is one is my favorite seasons. When we turn the corner from rainy 40 degree spring to that first 60 degree day with nothing but sunshine, I’m the first one to throw on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and grab my shades and drive into work with the windows down, sunroof open, and music cranked up a bit louder than normal.
I grew up wedged between the ocean and 11,000 foot snow-capped mountains in Oregon. Traditionally people ask me two questions about Oregon: “Is Portland as weird as everyone says it is?” (The answer is a resounding yes) and “Does is rain a lot?” Yes. It rained it a ton. Almost 300 days of rain a year. We lived about a half hour from the ocean and we would frequent the beach a lot. However because it’s Oregon, half of the times we were there it was cloudy, 50, and misty. It made it less appealing to surf, skim board, or take a jaunt through the water. Instead, you’d throw on a North face fleece, grab your Starbucks coffee, an REI beanie, take a short walk, grab a shell or two, and turn around and head back.
Now that I live in Minnesota I experience more sunshine than I ever have. I did give up my oceans and my mountain adventures, but in turn I got more sunshine, great friends, and was introduced to the delightful season of road construction. Maybe the last one isn’t something I’m super thrilled about, but nonetheless, I enjoy having more sunshine available in Minnesota than in Oregon. Summer is a great time to hang out, be with friends, and even spend a weekend at the cabin. Yet, for me summer can also mean that I’m preoccupied more with the sunny weather than I am with my Bible. In years past, summer becomes my playground for hammocking, beach volleyball, late night DQ runs, and bike rides as far as my legs can go. Even though I’m not married and have the time to do whatever I want whenever I want, there’s still an obligation and responsibility that I believe we as men (and women too) must hold up and exalt above our preferences of a leisurely summer with loosened responsibility. Except, I’m not advocating for anyone to do more stuff. In fact, my plea is that we do less.
With the departure of winter and the summer months now in full swing (or 4 months of bad sledding if you choose to look at it like that) we have more sunlight, more outside freedom, and traditionally (for some) more free time. The refreshing nature of summer comes at a time where we need time to recuperate from the crazy fall, winter, and spring. But some of us use that extra daylight or extra free time to do more stuff. I was convicted many times this past month by multiple people, and then God, for not resting well this past year. I hardly took a day to myself or structured in more than a few minutes to myself in a given day. From 6am to 11pm, I was always doing something. Sabbath became somewhat of a foreign concept. It can sound really productive or give a vibe that showcases my “importance”, but overall it is not good.
It’s actually sin.
Not truly resting in God and taking time to become refreshed (like God was AFTER the 7th day in Genesis 2) is pride. It’s saying that we don’t need to take the time to slow down, make time, and commune with the Father. I know we are all busy people with schedules, agendas, people to provide for, and children to take care of. But I still think it’s fascinating that the first thing God makes Holy throughout the creation in Genesis is not people, is not the Earth, however, is time. God ordains time to be Holy.
“So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” -Genesis 2:3, NIV
If God makes time Holy, it must be important. I think that if we lack in understanding the importance of time and the depth to which God desires us to come to Him for rest, we miss a large part of who God is. If God rested after creating the universe, how much more do you believe we need to rest? Personally, I’ve taken this to heart and found myself much more joyful, satisfied, and refreshed. Yet I didn’t achieve this by simply adding in spiritual disciplines like in prayer or Bible reading on top of my current life. Instead I started to cut my social time, spend less time on my phone/computer, wake up earlier, work less than 50 hours a week, start to say ‘no’ to certain opportunities, and start to value my time with God. I made it a priority to actually do less stuff. In turn, I forged for myself 2 hours a day in my schedule where I don’t do anything with anyone and make that time I would spend with God. Whether I’m painting, reading, praying, listening to worship songs, or going for a solo walk to Stone Arch Bridge, the 2 hours of “God time” I’ve made has been nearly revolutionary. In the New Interpreters Bible Commentary about the Sabbath in Exodus, Walter Brueggemann explained the necessity of rest:
“How is it that a covenantal work stoppage (Sabbath) bears witness to this self disclosing God? The answer is given in the motivational clause: Israel rests because God rests. This God [YHWH] is not a workaholic. Yahweh has no need to be more secure, more sufficient, more in control, or more noticed. It is ordained in the very fabric of creation that the world is not a place of endless productivity, ambition, or anxiety.”
God wove rest into the very fabric of our creation. Trying to be productive all the time deters the ability to seek God, feel God, know God, and ultimately abandons our ability to truly be image bearers of God. If God rested, so shall we. To deny this is to deny the essence and nature of God and thus undermines Him by our attempts to exalt our time, desires for production and consumption above God’s ordained requirement to be still and know who He is. Walter Brueggemann continued,
“The work stoppage on the Sabbath- the breaking of the vicious cycle of production and consumption is a sign for all the world to see.”
This is the true meaning of rest in Christ Jesus our Lord and King- that we may not seek His will in hopes to perform and please Him, but that we rest and be filled. That we all quietly retreat to commune with the Father in simply just being. If we are stressed out, busy, finding our time slipping away from us, or losing grips with our spiritual compass, taking some time to rest could be the greatest gift God has offered us. Through rest I know we find our ultimate joy, ultimate satisfaction, and supreme direction for our lives: to know God, to be known by God, and to love God! To take time to be away from working, people, and school can free our minds to be with God. To put a stop to our work or play, sit before God, listen, pray, and worship gives God glory. God fills us when we come to Him. We are not human doings, we are human beings. Thus, we should embrace our existence of “being” and be.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!” -Psalm 46:10, ESV