Some time ago I was driving with a friend of mine who is a driving instructor. During our conversation she gently pointed out that I didn’t come to a stop at a stop sign, I just slowed down. In that moment I made a decision to reform my driving ways. I would ensure that I came to a complete stop at every stop sign. Once I had learned to stop again my eyes were opened to something that surprised me. Hardly anyone ever actually stops at a stop sign. At best people just slow down. It was even quite common for the drivers behind me to beep their horns when I stopped.
I think that as a society we have forgotten how to stop, and I am not talking about driving anymore. Now I am talking about the way we live our lives. I think we have forgotten what it means to genuinely come to a stop for rest and to simply breathe. The moments we have the opportunity to stop we fill with something and anything. Instead of stopping we just slow down a little and coast through the stop signs of life. I believe this failure to stop is making us unhealthy. I believe that we need to learn to stop all over again.
In the Bible we are told that God instructed his ancient people Israel to work 6 days and to take a day of rest on the 7th day. This day was called the Sabbath. There are a few different reasons given for this instruction to stop and rest. Firstly, God himself rested after 6 days of creating and so as people shaped in God’s image we are formed to follow a pattern of work and rest. It is how we were designed to operate. You could say that the need to rest is built into our DNA. All work and no rest makes us sick, burnt out and dysfunctional. We need to rediscover this rhythm of rest for our own health and performance in life.
Another reason for the instruction to rest was that the people had been set free from slavery in Egypt. This seems a bit odd at first but when you think about it makes sense. As slaves in Egypt the people of Ancient Israel were forced to work without any hope of rest. Taking a day of rest was a reminder that they were free. There is something about freedom that means that it is ok to stop and rest. If we are not free to stop and rest, then we are really slaves to something. We were not created for slavery but for freedom. We need to learn to stop and rest because it protects us from becoming someone or something’s slave.
The third reason for the Sabbath day was that it reminded God’s people of the need for trust. The day of rest reminded Israel that they could trust God to provide for them even if they stopped and rested for a day. And so rest reminds us that we too need to trust. We need to learn to trust that there will be enough and that we will be enough, if we don’t force ourselves to work every moment of every day. The Sabbath rest is a reminder that ultimately we trust not in our own strength and abilities but in God for our needs and self worth.
Researcher and author Brene Brown describes a prevalent theme within western society as a “culture of scarcity”. What she means by this is not that there is not enough to go around but that in the midst of plenty we never feel like we have enough and we never feel like we are good enough. So we respond by striving harder and harder to do more and be more. We try to squeeze something out of every minute of every day. The result is not more, better and more significant. The result is diminishing returns, while all the time still never feeling enough.
So I believe we need to learn to stop again. We need to learn to take moments to rest, to breath, to pray and to simply take in our surroundings. We need to learn to trust that we will be enough and we will have enough even if we don’t squeeze something out of every moment of every single day.
When was the last time you came to a complete stop?
Maybe the idea of a whole day of rest is so far away from your current reality that you can’t even imagine how you would begin to do that. My encouragement is to begin by finding the little opportunities where you can stop, even if only for a moment. And instead of reaching for something, anything, to fill that space and keep your wheels spinning, instead simply…
I am convinced that you will be at least a tiny bit rejuvenated. I am convinced that you will begin to find the value of Sabbath in your own life.
Will you join me in learning to stop again?
Want to explore more?
Check out Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly
Rob Feeney, Pastor of GracePoint has a lot of great insight into Rest. He hasn’t written a book about it but he probably should.