This summer was a busy one. We had a huge international trip to two different countries with four young kids in tow. (Yeah, I know. Don’t worry–we had help.) All this travel was exciting and fulfilling in ways we never expected as God allowed us to encourage and help a number of friends serving in hard places, as well as reconnect with friends in our old neighborhood.
Upon our return home, all we wanted to do was crash, but we had given ourselves exactly three days to unpack, do laundry, and repack for the long drive to a conference near my hometown.
Needless to say, by the time the conference was over and we made the drive back, I was never so happy to be home in all my life. I’ve not wanted to go anywhere or do anything outside the four walls of our home in the past month. (And you must understand, for an extrovert this is quite out of character for me.)
From our experience with burnout and depression, we’ve learned to recognize our limits. Mick and I agreed with each other not to resume hosting lifegroup until after the New Year, not to schedule a bunch of activities, not to make a list of plans and projects. Right now, our focus is rest, and life is gloriously slow.
It has taken a number of deliberate decisions to get to this point. We’re eating at home more (which means I’m cooking nearly every meal–from scratch). We’re homeschooling (which means it’s just me and the kids all day, every day). We’re minimizing screen time, for us and the kids. We have no extracurricular activities right now (which tends to feed my mom guilt that we’re missing out on opportunities). But man, oh man, is it worth it.
I’ve been surprised at just how good this has been for our family. We’re getting the rest we need, we’re keeping stress levels down with fewer transitions in and out of the house, we’re being productive, we feel better (because we’re eating better), and we’re enjoying each other’s company because we have more energy and time to spend on one another.
I know this season of rest can’t last forever. In fact, busy season at the family greenhouse is looming (working sun to sun from New Year’s to Mother’s Day), and eventually we’ll need to be more involved in the activities going on around us. But the fact that it’s only a season has given me so much more freedom to say no to things that tempt me away from rest right now. This is a time for regrouping and recharging, of settling in and being stable for a while before another intense season comes.
These cycles of work and rest have somehow become a rhythm for us in a way that they’ve never been before. In a society that moves at a frantic pace, it feels so good to slow down. We have come to guard our rest times very protectively–which in turn tends to give us more energy and creativity for work.
This week I was reading I Kings 5 and 6 about King Solomon’s plans and activities for building a temple for God. These verses struck me:
“King Solomon drafted forced labor out of all Israel, and the draft numbered 30,000 men. And he sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month in shifts. They would be a month in Lebanon and two months at home.” I Kings 5:13-14
I’m sure the labor was intensive, almost non-stop for the month they were in Lebanon. But then they had two months at home? That doesn’t seem so bad. I bet it kept the workers fresh and the job clipping along at a good pace.
Can you imagine working like that?
What would our society look like if we all valued rest to that degree?
Our family had to learn the hard way that there are certain seasons–seasons of sickness, or of extremely high levels of stress, or of intense work–that require us to put life on hold for a little bit, to hunker down and do only the necessary, to focus on rest and care. There’s great wisdom in these cycles and rhythms–take it from King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. We’re now in a much healthier place because of it.
What about you personally? What do your current rhythms look like? Are you in need of rest? What would it take for you to pursue it?
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27
Let me encourage you this week–God designed you to need rest. Take the time you need. It is for your good.