Monday, September 12, 2011

The Sacrifice of Rest

I read a friend's blog this past week, and it made me stop and think. He was writing about the challenges of being a new adoptive parent, and how it has meant giving up some of his other activities. Activities that he loves and that are important parts of his ministry. He also wrote about sacrifice. Self-sacrifice. And the idea of death to self.

He mentioned that many times the things that we do that we think are "sacrifices," are actually things that we enjoy doing. And while they may require sacrifices of time and talent, they rarely require death to self, which is what Jesus desires of us. Like me, he is a writer, and in these first months of his son being home, he has needed to set aside his writing to care for the needs of his son. There is a death to self involved in this, because he admits that often he'd rather be writing than doing some of the other tasks that his current role as Dad necessitates.

His words made me think of all of the "sacrifices" that I make. How many are truly the kind that require me to die to self and how many play right into the things that I enjoy doing? "Doing" is an important word for me here, because I am a do-er. I thrive on being busy. On having things to DO. I always have. But lately all that I'm doing has started to feel like too much. Sometimes I feel like there isn't even time for me to catch my breath and rest my mind before diving into the next activity/responsibility. Most of the time, I have little idea what true rest, true Sabbath, looks like.

And then something occurred to me. What if for a person like me, a real sacrifice would be ceasing activity, not taking on more and more. This is hard for me. Because even now with all I have going on, I can still think of other ways I could, would and should be serving. The thought of giving up some of what I already do in order to rest, well, it almost makes me feel guilty. Like, "How can you think of doing less when there is so much more to be done?"

And yet, I think what I'm learning now is that life is seasonal. For the past few years I have been in a season of intense activity, so perhaps it's time for a season of rest. In the Bible the land was to be cultivated for six years, then in the seventh year, God wanted it to lay fallow so that it could be renewed.

As I wrestle with these ideas and what they mean for my own life, I am reminded of the fact that in a world that values constant activity and busyness, we often need the reminder that not only is it okay to rest, it is commanded of us. And just because I put something down for a season, it doesn't mean I can't come back to it later, at a different season. Maybe you are like me - a person who is constantly awash in activity. And although you are a good planner, who knows how to manage time well -- you realize that it has become too much because you have forgotten what it means to rest. Maybe for you, like me, self-sacrifice has less to do with how much you are doing and everything to do with how much you are willing to rest in the Lord. Personally, I'm rather stubborn, because the Lord has to continue teaching me this lesson, season after season. Now I pray for the strength not just to learn the lesson, but to be willing to live it out, even when it goes against my very nature.

(P.S. If you're wondering about the picture of the sleeping koalas, koalas are one of the animals that have no problem resting. They can sleep for hours on end!)

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