By Brock Bondurant
Exodus 34:21 – “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.”
About a year ago, I was experiencing burnout; fatigue and frustration. I was constantly on the move going from one thing to another. I wanted to work, to workout, to coach, to mentor, to run, to bike, to help others, to travel, to rest, to play – too much. Exhausted, I was anxious and in a hurry everywhere that I went. I had no presence to be present. At the pace of life I was living, it wouldn’t have been long before I crashed and burned. Something had to change.
It was around that time that I began learning about the Sabbath – a day of rest. It was alluring for someone susceptible to fatigue and burnout. The thing is, setting aside an entire 24 hour period for rest sounded impossible. But I knew if I wanted to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did, a Sabbath would be non-negotiable in my life.
First, I needed to learn what rest is, or more importantly what it is not. It is not restful to binge watch Netflix, play mind-numbing video games, or stare at my phone for hours on end. I’m not saying that those things are inherently evil, but I am saying that I’ve personally never felt restful after spending hours staring at screens. Rest then, must be time intentionally spent. A Sabbath day is a day:
A day to refocus, regroup, and recalibrate with things that fill my soul.
Second, I needed to learn how to find 24 hours to rest in a schedule stuffed with busyness and hurry. I had to start with renewing things that were natural transitions in my day – the slow activities that I could rethink to stir my affections for Jesus. Things like the commute to work became 15 minutes of silence and prayer rather than the radio. I’d set aside 2-3 minutes a couple times a day during natural transitions in between tasks for something called a “daily office” – an ancient practice of spending small segments of time in silence and solitude during your work day. I set my phone down and stopped trying to multi-task or distract myself during meals. I just ate!
After renewing natural transitions, I then got busy eliminating the things in life that were “extra” – even good things. I had to give up the lesser commitments on my priority list, in order to be all-in for those that I deemed more important in that season – the things that were for right now (spiritual formation, relationships, work, leading in Church). The extra fluff had to go. I learned to say “no” to good things in order to make room – say “yes” to the best things.
With renewed habits, elimination of busyness and hurry, and the breaking of digital addiction (a very important step), I found a 24 hour Sabbath to be within reach. I started small, with 2 hours on a Saturday spent in “Sabbath mode” and eventually worked my way up to a weekly habit of 24 hours without plans, a phone, or a place to be. I can say that there is no other practice that brings me more life than a whole day spent with Jesus.
To most, that sounds impossible. I realize that we’re all in different life stages. Twenty-four hours is infinitely more attainable for a single guy with nothing but a dog needing my immediate attention than it is for a mother/father of 3 kids and the accompanying activities. But it’s vital for us to intentionally find rest in the arms of our savior.
So, if 24 hours is intimidating for you right now, let’s start small. What seemingly insignificant activities throughout your day can you renew to stir your affections for Jesus – draw you into the rest he has on offer? Is it your commute to work? Your post-work walk of the dog? Your five minutes in between meetings? What is the extra – even good things – in your life to eliminate in this season? Then, what activity can you do for just 15 minutes to start each day from a place of rest – life? For me, that’s a cup of coffee and a journal. Whatever it is for you, I pray that it brings you life.