The Sabbath Struggle

Recently I've been quite curious about rest.

It's something that I'm admittedly not good at, but I know that there's such value in it. I've been reading about it, listening to podcasts, watching TED Talks about it... really only for the purpose of educating myself, and hopefully psyching myself into changing my sleep habits. Also, perhaps, to justify sleeping in just a little bit longer...

As I've mentioned probably countless times in my daily vlog, as well as here... I recently read this book called "Essentialism" which has truly changed my thinking about productivity. And of course, one of the chapters is on rest. I'm gonna paraphrase a bit, an idea shared in the book that's continuing to blow my mind and encourage me.

"To a Type-A person, it's fairly easy to push oneself to the limit. It feels most exhilarating and fulfilling to face a challenge head on, and devote oneself fully to the endeavor of seeing it accomplished. However, here's a true challenge for this kind of person... the next time you're presented with some kind of opportunity, no matter how unique or fantastic, decline it and take a nap instead."

...what? That seems kinda silly. 

I used to think that six hours of sleep was more than enough. When I see "hyper-productive" people like Casey Neistat, who sleep VERY little each night, but still have a certain glow about them at all times... I can't help but wonder if maybe I'm contrastingly hyper-lazy. Like, if such a "high-performing" person can go about their day with only like three hours a night, am I just undisciplined?

According to a few different things that I've been reading, apparently 8 hours of sleep a night is ideal for maximum daily productivity. And the biggest advocate for this principle? CEO's of massive companies. The very people that we would expect to be in enmity with sleep are the very people who insist on having the most consistent and robust sleeping habits.  

Productivity is not the absence of rest, but rather the understanding of the essential need for it.

High-performing people understand that it's not merely beneficial to get more sleep, it's necessary. Being well rested and at 100% is the only way that they can offer their highest level of contribution to their work. Sacrificing an hour of sleep to answer a few more emails, edit those photos, schedule those meetings, is actually hurting more than helping... that hour could be all it takes for you to be tireless and effective all day, rather than just for that extra hour of doing things. We need to begin to think about rest as something that is essential to being an effective person, rather than as the enemy to our progress.

But, understand that I'm writing this from my phone, in the Dublin airport, running on about 2.5 hours of sleep last night, due to late night packing and vlog-editing. Hypocritical? Yep, you betcha. But, relevant? Yes, very much so. I'll be the first to admit that I need to learn and practice proper rest habits.

When the Lord created and mandated a weekly Sabbath, he clarifies in the Word that fulfillment of the Sabbath is not for the sake of law... but because our souls require it. It's a commandment, because if it was merely a suggestion, we wouldn't do it... even though we still pretty much never do it.

So how do we remedy this?

Though it's not strictly speaking "Biblical", my approach to this problem of restlessness in our daily lives is taking a Daily Sabbath.

In my second year at Atlanta Leadership College, rest was a hard thing to come by. They joke in the program that a second year is the possibly the hardest year of one's life... and I don't think I disagree. There are seemingly endless responsibilities and expectations and vision statements and methods of "making you better" that seem to consume a person. But, even in just a year after finishing my time there, I can conclusively say that it's SO beneficial... my leadership capacity has grown immensely and my personal life has found amazing growth. 

However... in the moment, it kindof feels like you're emotionally drowning. Like there aren't any single, unoccupied moments throughout the day for even just breathing. It sounds like an exaggeration, but... when your primary focus is PEOPLE and you're constantly surrounded by PEOPLE and discipling PEOPLE, you're not often afforded the luxury of alone time.

...But, I found an oasis. A sanctuary. A safe haven. I'm talking about trips to the gas station.

It's an approximately 8 minute round-trip drive to the QuikTrip gas station from the church that ALC is based at, and it's a well-travelled spot for the majority of the school. Depending on how fast you drive, it could be a 4 minute commute, or a 12 minute one. That drive was something that I chose to prioritize about half-way through the year. It wasn't exclusively MY time, but whenever the opportunity presented itself, I chose to make that little 8 minute drive a time to rest, pray, and refocus. I made those 8 minutes count, because I needed to.

Now, that's not to say that one shouldn't take a weekly Sabbath too -- I'm still working on that one. If I'm honest, it's probably the last commandment that I'm usually aware of, because it feels so much more passive than the others. To not do something requires intent, but resting feels like leisure rather than action... but that's where our thinking needs to change.

The commandment is to keep the Sabbath "holy", which from my understanding means "other". Basically, when considering the entity of God, being Holy is for Him to be completely outside of our realm of understanding, being, and action. As we all know, His way of doing things isn't often similar to our own. So when we acknowledge that Sabbath is meant to be "holy", we have to understand that it's both simpler and more complex than we give it credit for. It's simply dwelling and resting the the presence of God, finding peace, rest, and wholeness for that very moment... but it's also mimicking the very act that took place in Creation. That's no small feat.

But when you think about it, it's not like God REALLY needed to rest on the seventh day... I mean, He's God. He doesn't get tired, and he never lacks in power... so why did He rest? I think it's because He wanted to admire His work and place His presence into it. He chose to take a day to dwell amidst His creation and invest beauty and wonder into it all... this is why He called it good. Not because Creation in itself was truly full of majesty, but because the One who made it placed His presence in our midst.

When we choose to rest, we're choosing to dwell amidst the Holy, and find peace in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It's our responsibility to choose to rest in the presence of God, just as much as we must choose to sleep, eat healthy food, and take care of our bodies to continue living. A lack of sleep seems of such little consequence when in comparison to the lack of time spent with the King. He made us to need Him... so why do we think we can go about our lives without resting?

If I had to sum up all of the things that I learned in my time at ALC, it's this: Your choices make the difference.

It would be easy to let a few spare minutes be a waste of time, slipping into the endless abyss of social media and scrolling on your light-up screen of choice. It would be easy to have poor sense, manners, and etiquette, blending in quietly with the normality and ease of millennial stereotypes. It would be easy to let your values and standards fade away as culture insists that one must accept all, for fear of being ironically unaccepted. It would be easy to fall into the trap of productivity, and never choose to rest. 

A person could go their entire life without knowing God. In fact, many do... entire populations throughout history have, and just as surely as sin exists, there will be many more who tragically will not choose Christ. But that's why it's so important to remember that it's our choice to follow Jesus that sets us apart. By a carnal default, we have a dreadful lack of life, and to look to the Lord to satiate that lack is the very essence of our salvation -- He gave us what we could never acquire with our own efforts. 

EVERYTHING is a choice... and to truly find rest and the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we must continuously choose Him over our own agenda.

BIG IDEA: We must choose to rest because we're made to need it.

I pray that in this day, you acknowledge your need for rest. For the most of us, we strive to be busier, more efficient, and thriving in productivity... but I pray that you'll fix your gaze on that seemingly passive action of rest, instead of ignoring it. You're human, and that's okay. In fact, that's a beautiful thing... if you were any more capable than you are right now, where would your need for God be? Your dependence on Him is not weakness, it's necessity. I pray that you'll be instilled with a fresh dose of peace, stillness, and genuine rest in this day. That your anxiety will fade, your craving for importance will momentarily diminish, and that you'll be reintroduced to a Holy Spirit that loves to make you your best self. Let Him change you and make you whole! He adores you and finds you to be stunning in every way... so allow yourself to be weak with Him, so that you might find that rest and fulfillment that you're lacking. I love you, and I'm glad we're in this thing together. Hope you have a lovely day, and don't forget to keep moving forward.