“I’ll rest when I’m finished.”
How many times has a thought like that crossed your mind?
I definitely have felt that way many times. “Once I’m done with this, then I’ll be able to rest.” And it makes sense, right? Who can rest, for example, when there are errands you want to do or feel you need to do?
One of the challenging lessons of Sabbath-keeping is this: you have to surrender your desire to be finished.
You see, here’s the thing: if you keep a Sabbath, it arrives whether you’re ready or not. Left to ourselves, we won’t stop. At least not until we’re so worn out that moving and working isn’t a realistic option. Because, let’s be honest, there is always more for us to do. It never ends. More chores, more tasks, more work, more effort: more, more, more.
Then on top of the actual things we think we should do or even want to do, we always love piling on guilt and anxiety. We like making ourselves feel bad about not getting everything done. More specifically, we let ourselves feel guilty about stopping to rest when not everything is done.
What’s up with that? Who are we trying to impress? What’s going to happen if we stop?
Let me put it this way. I love a clean kitchen and dining room. I love a clean room, period. But you know what? That room will have to be cleaned again. Another basket will fill up with dirty laundry. Dishes will need to be done again. Not only that, but even when you catch up on the obvious work, there’s always those jobs that get stuck on the periphery awaiting our attention. Cleaning up that “let’s throw everything we don’t want to deal with now” closet.
You know what Jesus says about this?
The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.Mark 2:27
In other words, it’s a gift from God as well as a command of God. “Here,” God says, “I’m giving you time and space to heal, to let me restore your soul, to find rest in my presence. There’s always more work to do. Those jobs will be there when the Sabbath is over. And guess what? The world won’t end because you leave them unfinished for awhile.”
And being committed to a Sabbath isn’t the same as being legalistic about Sabbath. Even though we weren’t made for the Sabbath, we don’t avoid that trap by ignoring it altogether.
Surrendering our need to be finished–to keep going–is, frankly, the healthiest way to see ourselves and to see the world. Entering into the rhythm of Sabbath means acknowledging that we are human beings made in the image of God, not human doings who earn God’s favour by how hard we work.
I’ve also heard this saying: “I’ll rest when I’m dead.”
Sure, because by not taking time for genuine rest, you’re probably killing yourself–killing your heart, your mind, your body, and your soul.
Refusing to rest violates the command to love God, and it also wrecks our capacity to love our neighbours. What we expect of ourselves, we often expect of others. So if we think we should keep pushing ourselves no matter what, how will we treat and think of others?
Learning to surrender your desire or need to be finished ultimately means recognizing that God and not you is at the center of all reality, the hub around which the spokes of the universe turn. You are not in control.
Sabbath, therefore, is an act of humility.
There will always be unfinished stuff in our lives. But I don’t think God is calling us to kill ourselves trying to get it all done in order to experience the rest he has for us. That’s salvation by works, not grace. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. That means learning to leave things unfinished.