There was a season that lasted far too long, where I was striving to get all of my chores done, so that I could rest. “Work first, then play” is such an admirable work ethic. I was like Cinderella, rushing around my house trying to get everything done so I could finally put my feet up and read a good book. Too often, that time never came. Like Cinderella, my work is never done, and the constant need of my family often leaves me feeling ragged, with no use for nice clothes, and fun times.
The baby was always crying. My sleep was always interrupted. Someone was always hungry. My house never lacked in a mess to clean up. Day after day, I tried to make everyone in my family happy and comfortable, thinking that it would automatically return back to me, someday. When I would complain of my fatigue, too many older women said that it was just a hard season, and I’d get to rest someday, and of course, then I would miss the work.
The Resurrection Changed Everything
I heard a pastor say once that we go to church and take our day of rest on Sunday rather then Saturday because of the resurrection. The early church started meeting the first day of the week to remind them that Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week. This pastor said there’s another meaning besides this change.
When we live under the law, we have to work to earn anything. When we live under the gospel, rest is simply given, without any work, before any work is even done. We start with rest, and work out of worship of that gift.
It’s in this area that I feel the Bible must be most impractical. Rest first? Grace first? Doesn’t God know that some people can’t rest because of the work on their plate? There are so many protests to list. I have an infant! I have a special needs child! I have a job too! We are broke! I secretly believed that sabbath was just for childless people, or people with jobs with regular hours…privileged people. The Sabbath was for organized people, with organized lives. It wasn’t for people whose lives were as crazy as mine.
However, when God commands rest in Exodus 20:10b “On [the Sabbath] you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” God is pretty explicit that no one should be left out of this rest.
Later, I was reading in Luke 10:38-42 when Jesus went to visit Mary and Martha, Martha was doing all of the chores, and Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. When Martha asked Jesus to scold Mary, he said Mary had picked the better thing. The chores didn’t come first. But then Jesus said something that struck me: “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Italics mine.) Jesus took a protective posture towards Mary. He protected his time with her. He sent a very clear message.
And yet, I find myself choosing the chores. I was probably about 10 years into motherhood, not even finished having babies, when I was convicted of the idol I had not only made out of my chores, but how I worshiped what my family thought of me. I wanted to show my family that I loved them—so I gave up my rest. I wanted to keep everyone happy and peaceful—so I gave up my rest. I kept saying I can relax when my house is clean, but not before. I didn’t realize that God was trying to teach me that I was living out the theology that we have to get ourselves together and tidied up before we can accept God’s gifts. That is not the theology of grace.
Living Under the Gift of Grace
I had no desire to enter into a legalistic practice of the sabbath, and be afraid to pick up scissors, or walk more than 1/4 mile. I wanted to remember that Jesus said that “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” I wanted to consciously remind myself I’m not earning God’s favor by resting, I’m simply accepting his gift. I started to take some baby steps towards resting.
For my family, it looked like this:
-Cereal Sunday mornings
-Pizza on paper plates for lunch
-Letting the kids have their weekly screen time on Sunday afternoons so I can rest.
-Saying no to obligations and expectations this one, precious day.
-Not doing any dishes, laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, gardening or other chores on Sundays. Emergency clean ups only. (Yes, the kitchen gets dirty…and I go to bed.)
-Asking for babysitting help later on in the week if there is something going on a particular Sunday that prevents rest.
-Recognizing that rest looks different for different people in our house, because it’s rest from our work, and we all have different kinds of work.
-Not reaching for perfection in “sabbath rules” so that I’m not discouraged when the enemy accuses me. We are saved by faith, not our works. I view it as an invitation from the prince, that no one in the household can force me to turn down. No shame allowed.
The day still isn’t perfect, and getting all 6 of my kids out the door Sunday morning is still a chore. Honestly, every one of those things on the list was hard for me. It took strength to resist cleaning up real quick. I have strong feelings about screens and kids. I hate asking for help. I like a list to check off. I am quick to blame myself.
Honestly, it may look differently for everyone. I don’t think “getting the Sabbath right” is the point. I think the point is that God has given us a gift, by his grace, and we get to use it. It isn’t just a command. It’s part of our original design. It’s our birthright as born again believers. We get to rest—even if our work isn’t done. Maybe I should say, especially when our work isn’t done. We get to rest before our work even starts.
That is what radical grace is.
God Was Teaching Me to Wait Expectantly
Practically speaking what God taught me through this was:
-It is just as wrong to not ask for help so that I can rest, as it is not not help someone in need. (Rev. Colin Smith says that a failure of rest is not the sin of an individual, but the sin of a community. I think on that often.)
-When I don’t take my Sabbath, I tend to start having anxiety that everything in the family rests on my shoulders. I start to just keep my eyes on all the plates I have spinning and balls I am juggling, and I start to think that if I take my eyes off of all these things, and put them on Christ, than everything will fall apart. I start to grow what I call the “Savior complex” or in other words, I start to believe that I am my family’s savior, not Christ.
-When I don’t take my Sabbath, it has fostered unhealthy boundaries with my husband and children. It effects respect. In all things, I want to submit to my husband, as long as he doesn’t ask me to do anything that is against God’s word, of course. But God has commanded me to rest, and not only that, he has said that “it won’t be taken from her.” It has strengthened my marriage when I look for ways to help my husband rest, and I communicate to him how he can help me rest. Before, I just tried to sacrifice myself. I didn’t realize that God does not ask us to compromise his word in order to sacrifice.
-When I do take my Sabbath, I learn to see God’s peace in the mess of my life, instead of trying to make my own peace, or frantically avoiding any need of God’s peace in the midst at all. (Oh how I hate my need!)
Do you also feel that rest is something out of your reach, and something that isn’t for you? It’s not for a season of life, it’s weekly—regardless of season. How might your life change if you accept the invitation of Sabbath?