January 24, 2007

Rest

Last night at our monthly home school parent meeting I had the opportunity to speak about an important topic: rest! I was asked to give the devotional at the end of last week, and as it was a topic that the Lord has been speaking to me about recently anyway, it was easy to say yes. I thought I'd copy my speech here in hopes that it will encourage other moms (whether you're home schooling or not). It's a long read (my presentation was somewhere around 17 minutes), but I hope it will bless you.

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Ecclesiastes chapter 3 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Unfortunately, many of us neglect to make time for a very important activity: rest! As home schooling moms, we assume roles such as Teacher, Cook, Laundry Maid, House Cleaner, Landscaper, Chauffeur, Animal Caretaker, and more. Some of us work outside the home; others run a home business; and many of us volunteer for ministries in addition to our responsibilities as wives and mothers.

Let’s look at some people in the Bible who Jesus determined were in great need of rest. Mark 6:30 – 32 says: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

I thought about how this passage might read if written about our own lives:
“The children gathered around Mom, reporting on what they need right this minute and what their siblings are doing that they shouldn’t be doing. Then, because so many tasks and people were screaming for attention so that Mom didn’t even have a chance to eat, she said in an exasperated voice, ‘I wish I could get away by myself to a quiet place and get some REST!’ So she ran to the bathroom and locked the door, enjoying the solitary place, if only for 45 seconds.”

If this sounds like the only peace and quiet you get these days, let me encourage you with some thoughts from God’s Word about the importance of rest.

Matthew 11:28 – 30 is a familiar passage. Close your eyes as I read it, and imagine Jesus speaking directly to you—because He is. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The Greek word for rest in this passage is the same word used in Mark 6 when Jesus told the disciples they needed to get some rest. The word (anapauo) means to offer rest, not cause rest; to re-create, be refreshed, take ease. Jesus is offering us—urging us, even—to get some rest.

Often in the past when I have read these verses, I have wondered about the analogy of the yoke. Why a yoke? That doesn’t sound very restful to me—it sounds like work. But a recent Bible study I was involved with, Beth Moore’s Breaking Free, gave me some insight into these verses. Beth notes that we are a captive audience to anything on the other side of our yoke. If Jesus is the One to whom we are yoked, then we are walking in the places AND AT THE PACE He wants us! When we accept the yoke Christ offers, we are not driven by the captivity of activity, the need for accomplishment. Instead, we discover complete fulfillment. When Jesus says, in verse 29, “You will find rest for your souls,” the word for rest means an intermission of sorts. It’s an inward tranquility while one performs necessary labor.

We ALL have necessary labor—that’s undisputed! But how many of us give ourselves unnecessary labor? Unrealistic expectations, perhaps, whether in the area of home schooling, housework, or other chores? If we allow ourselves to be yoked with Christ, then by default we allow Him to direct our steps to the things which He wants us to accomplish. And, believe it or not, REST is something He WANTS us to do!

God rested on the seventh day after creating the world, one day after creating people. That means the first full day of Adam’s life was a restful one! God charged Adam and Eve with the task of caring for the garden. They were given work to do before they sinned—therefore, it is a good thing to do good work. But along with responsibilities, God also gave the command to rest, to remember the Sabbath. In Exodus 20:11, God says, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The Hebrew word for rest (nuwach) includes these synonyms/ definitions: to rest, settle down, cease, lay, let down, be quiet, remain. That should be a clear picture of what REST should be for us!

Think back to Jesus’ invitation in Mark 6:31. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” We know what rest is, we know God wants us to have it—now let’s talk about some practical ways to do it.

1. GET SOME SLEEP!
It’s common sense—one of the best things we can do is allow ourselves to get the sleep we need. Some of us have no problems with this, but others, like myself, may have a hard time turning in a bit earlier at night in order to get 7-8 hours of solid sleep. Perhaps we feel we need to “get stuff done.” Perhaps we enjoy the quiet peacefulness of the house when the children are in bed. Perhaps we feel we deserve some time to ourselves to pursue hobbies or individual interests. Those things are fine, but if we are sacrificing hours that we should be sleeping in order to be involved in those activities, then we are not following where Christ wants to lead us. Still not sure? Listen to Psalm 127:2—“In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for [the Lord] grants sleep to those he loves.”

2. HAVE A PERSONAL, DAILY QUIET TIME.
Jesus said “Come to me” in Matthew 11 and “Come away with me” in Mark 6. This is a personal invitation to make a decision to spend time with Jesus. In His presence we can be renewed and refreshed. We can soak up His Word, finding encouragement, wisdom, guidance, and hope. We can be filled with the Holy Spirit so that when we resume our role as Home School Mom, we have the satisfaction that only Jesus brings and we aren’t expecting our families (or anything else) to fill the needs in our lives.

My personal choice nowadays is to wake early, long before my children are awake, and spend time alone with the Lord. I enjoy a cup of hot tea as I sit in my favorite chair by a window that faces east so I can enjoy the sunrise. There I commune with my Savior. I read and study His Word. I pour out my heart to Him and listen for His responses. It’s the perfect way for me to start my day.

However, there have been seasons in my life (especially after having a newborn) during which my personal quiet time had to be in the afternoons, during nap time, or else I would have slept through my whole appointment with the Lord! Other times (especially during college) it was right before bedtime. Whatever works for you and your schedule, find a time if you haven’t already and commit to it. It doesn’t have to span a whole hour—in fact, it doesn’t have to be any particular length of time. God will honor whatever time you give to Him. The important thing is doing it consistently. I have found that missing this time with God actually takes away my energy! I need my quiet time, so I do whatever I can to protect that time alone with God.

3. CONTINUALLY EVALUATE YOUR ACTIVITIES AND YOUR SCHEDULE.
Do you really need to be serving on three different committees? Do your children really need to be in multiple activities that meet weekly? Do you really need to attend every single EAGLES event? Do you have a hard time saying no when volunteers are needed? Look at your weekly schedule. If you feel tired just reading about all the commitments you have, it’s time to think about dropping something.

My husband and I have chosen not to involve our children in sports, music lessons, or other weekly activities just yet. The only exception to this is AWANA. The time will come when other activities will be appropriate for them. However, our goal as parents is not to produce professional musicians or athletes, or even very skilled ones. Our goal is to raise godly children who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Running from one activity to the next is not the way to teach our children to love God—but it’s a great way to teach them to find fulfillment in activities and accomplishments rather than in Christ. An overly full schedule can also teach them to burn themselves out instead of resting in the Lord.

A concept that was presented to us at the church we attended 2 assignments ago was the idea of creating margin in one’s life. This includes finances as well as time. If, for example, your monthly expenses use up 100% of your income, you have no margin in your budget to give when something extra comes up. Likewise, if your calendar is consistently full, you have no margin in your life to respond with love and compassion when needs arise, whether in your own family or in the family of believers around you—or in the lives of unbelievers who need a touch from someone who isn’t too busy. Here’s a challenging question to consider: If a close friend or family member called you this week with an urgent need, would you be able to take their family a meal or babysit their children without being totally stressed out about getting behind? If not, you may need to build some margin into your life.

If you feel your calendar is simply overflowing with activities—even if they are GOOD activities—spend some time praying and talking with your spouse (and children if appropriate) about what needs to give. Sometimes the Good needs to give way to the Best. Remember, there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven! Maybe further down the road will be the season to do some of the things you’re trying to do now. Remember that God created us to be human beings, not human doings. Take more time to BE—don’t spend all your time doing.

4. REMEMBER THE SABBATH.
This last way of incorporating more rest in your life is a concept that God has recently been putting on my heart more and more. Why is it we feel it’s so important to adhere to all the 10 Commandments—except this one? We relegate it to the “Old Testament era” along with hundreds of other obscure laws that seem to have no relevance to our lives today, yet all the other commandments we deem important and strive to follow, even knowing we are under the New Testament era of grace.

God gave Israel the gift of the Sabbath, a chance to rest and remember Him. Unfortunately, legalism crept into the beauty and holiness of the day, adding hundreds of little nit-picky laws that were impossible to keep. Today, we can easily set aside one day a week to honor God, to spend time with Him and with our families. This is an idea you can pray about, but I’ll share a few ways our family is seeking to remember the Sabbath more consistently.

 No outside work—that means for me personally, my home business. I don’t schedule events or workshops on Sundays, and I try not to even make phone calls or emails related to my business.

 Planning ahead for meal times—if possible, I make dinner on Saturday or else spend a few minutes Sunday morning throwing together a quick casserole or crock pot dish so I’m spending as little time in the kitchen as possible, leaving me free to enjoy meal time with the family. Supper is simple and often consists of breakfast foods, which are easy to cook!

 Our kids are off the hook for their daily chores, with the exception of cleaning up any toys/books/etc. that they get out that day.

 When possible, I try to get a nap, and the children have quiet time in their rooms during the afternoon.

 Family time in the late afternoon/evening—this may include watching a football game, playing games, reading as a family, etc.

These are just a few ideas of how to experience rest as God intends for you to have regularly: Get more sleep; commit to a personal, daily quiet time; continually evaluate your schedule and activities; and remember the Sabbath. I pray that each of us chooses on a daily basis to “Come away to a quiet place and get some rest.”

1 comment:

Sarah said...

My kids were in bed and all asleep by 8:20 (thanks to your trampoline!), so I was able to finally catch up on your blog and read this. It's wonderful! I'll have to loan you my "Doorposts" book about the Sabbath. Our series at church, plus reading your blog entry, makes me want to get that out and put it into practice now. Thanks for sharing your insight and your heart.