A study by the US National Commission on Sleep Disorders blamed half of all traffic accidents on tiredness. Put that together with our penchant for speeding, and the result is carnage on the roads. Annual traffic fatalities now stand at 1.3 million worldwide, more than double the figure for 1990.
Tiredness and speeding are a lethal combination.
Frederick W. Robertson, considered by many to be the greatest English preacher of the nineteenth century, wrote that “rest is the deepest want in the soul of man.” (p. 379) And yet so many of us forsake this deep need. Some of us willingly overwork ourselves week after week. Some of us feel we have no choice but to give ourselves over to work as often as our employers ask of us. Some of us do it because we believe if we stop our activity and productivity we will cease to be valuable in the eyes of the world or even of God.
Most of us are up against a never ending demand of tasks. The smart phone buzzes for our attention incessantly. Our TV schedule becomes a master. Our sports fanaticism demands that we behold every game.
Many of us find it hard to simply be still and allow our thoughts to rest. We can’t put it down, turn it off, or let it go. Everything is urgent. Everything needs our attention. As a result we often find ourselves exhausted and have little energy. Many of us have become slaves to the urgent. Ashleigh Brilliant, author and cartoonist put this way, "Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest."
Genesis chapter two tells us two things: Human beings are made in the image of God and it is within our God’s nature to rest.
When humans were first created there was a perfect correspondence between need and action. If Adam was hungry he ate. When he was thirsty he drank. When he was tired, he slept. And then Eve came along and life got more complicated. Mainly just because he had to start taking baths and using table manners. Things really got complicated when they decided they wanted more. Even though they were perfectly created in the image of God, lacking nothing. They wanted more and the serpent appeared with an option. A temptation to be more, to have more than God intended. As a result, they were sentenced to hard labor.
God works, too. He created everything in six days and he continues to create and sustain life. But God’s work is God’s delight. Each day God brought something new into being and at the end of the day he surveyed his work and pronounced it “Good.” God is like a first rate craftsman who inspects his work at the end of each day. He looks at every bit of it and takes joy in its completion. When God had completed everything including the humans “he saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Certainly it was perfect, excellent, great, and all kinds of superlatives, but he says, “very good.” If you were taking a customer service survey very good would not be the highest rating. It is usually something like “outstanding” or “exceeds expectations”, but God has no need for outstanding and he could not possibly exceed his expectations for God’s expectations are perfect and satisfactory in themselves.
When did good become not good enough?
We live in a world, a mindset, which is never satisfied. We can always do better, do more, and have more. Our appetite for production and consumption is a mighty god. But so often we are left unsatisfied and exhausted by our efforts.
My dad used to tell me the story of the little green bug. There once was a little green bug. One day the little green bug decided he was tired of being so little so he decided he would eat a bird. So he opened up his mouth as big as he could and chomped. He ate a bird with one bite. He was as big as a bird. But he saw a dog. He wanted to be as big as the dog. So he opened his mouth up wide and chomped. He ate the dog in one bite. And he was as big as the dog. But then he ran across a horse. Chomp. One bite and he was big as a horse. He saw a house. Chomp, one bite, and he was as big as a house. He came across the Empire State Building. Chomp, one bite, and he was as big as the Empire State Building. As he looked across the country he saw the Rocky Mountains. Chomp. In one bit he was as big as the Rockies. He looked up and saw the moon. Chomp. One bite and he was as big as the moon. He looked down and saw the earth gloating at him in all its bigness. He opened his mouth up as wide as the world. Chomp! He was as big as the earth…for about a second. Then the big little green bug exploded! Out came the earth. Out came the moon. Out came the Rockies. Out came the Empire State Building. Out came the house. Out came the horse. Out came the dog. Out came the bird. But in all the big world the little green bug was nowhere to be found. He was no more.
We live in a little green world.
One day as I met with my prayer group, the pastor that was leading our check-in time posed the question “How are you doing with being?” Pastors, like everyone else, fall into the trap of worshipping the god of production. If we aren’t doing something productive we feel guilty. We go from task to task to task. When is it that we can just BE? When is it that we can simply say to our Lord, “Here I am.” When can we just allow the spinning cycle of work to just cease? When can we just be satisfied?
How are you doing with being?
“And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.” This might also read, “And on the Sabbath day God sabbathed the work that he had done, and he sabbathed on the Sabbath day…” The word for seventh and rest are essentially the same. It means to cease. Seven also symbolizes being complete. The creation was not complete until God created Sabbath rest. He built rest into creation. God did not rest because he was tired, although, we’d be tired if we created the heavens and the earth and filled in with life. He rested because the work was done and he saw that it was good. And so for a day he just was. He was just being. No doing. No creation. No production. I am. God created human beings in his image and he set an example for how they should live. We work and then we rest.
So God reflected upon his work, he rested, but then he did something more that affects us: he blessed and hallowed the seventh day. To bless is to make holy and to hallow is to set apart. Here’s how I think about it. Growing up we had a formal dining room. It was a hallowed part of the house. We did not play in the formal dining room. We did not eat our everyday meals in it. It was for Sundays and holidays. But it was always set. The table always had the beautiful, white, table cloth that had been passed down. The china and silver gleamed. And the candle sticks awaited lighting. When we ate in the formal dining room, we knew it would be good. We knew there would be plenty. And we knew there would be rich conversation. And of course there would be a blessing spoken. We would be in no hurry. There would be no TV or radio blaring. The phone would be off the hook. It was a day before wireless technology. We were offline and unplugged. And after our sufficiency was sufficed, we rested.
Such is Sabbath. A blessed day. A hallowed day. A day for taking one’s time. A day when we rest from our labors and give thanks for God’s amazing ongoing creation.
Do you have days like that? Does your soul want for such a day?
Are you living in a world that is restlessly, breathlessly, speeding towards its destruction?
Set apart a day for blessed rest. Pull your speeding lives over. Let the world go racing by if it wants. Have a picnic in the field off the road away. Let the breezes of the Lord caress your hot, sweaty souls. Let him refresh you with his cool waters from the deep springs of his Holy Spirit.
The table is set. Have a seat. Enjoy God’s blessing. God’s rest.
O Lord, hallowed be thy day.