How Rest Informs Your Work
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.
We have a pet in our garage, but no one knows about it except me. Well, maybe I let my husband in on the secret.
On the first night of frost, a small lizard snuck into the garage with my potted plants. Surrounded by garden shovels, Christmas boxes awaiting return to the attic, and a gaggle of sports equipment, I’ve enjoyed a binocular view of hibernation. In a frozen stance, the reptile clings to vagrant leaves continuing to curl up and drop, creating leaf litter beside a pile of flip-flops.
He ends up in the most curious positions. I’ve worried he’ll topple off when the leaf he’s making a bed finally unhinges from the branch. Can you tell I’m attached just a little?
The initial stage of dormancy in nature is called quiescence, an environmental cue to cease growth. If conditions change at all, like a sudden warm up after a cold snap, a tree may produce an unexpected new shoot. We’ve experienced the indecision of quiescence this winter.
Ice storms turn tree limbs into weapons of glass, and two days later we’re walking in shorts, strolling on the beach. On those warm days, I’ve anticipated the lizard awakening from a winter trance. But that’s not happening.
Because the second stage of dormancy is rest. And rest is controlled not by the outside environment but from within the organism. No matter the outside conditions, nothing will coax it out. It’s the same in hibernation: heart beat slows and body temperature drops drastically. My lizard lives on the reserves stored up during previous active seasons, lingering in the same position until an inner clock says Go.
It is the same for us. In spiritual seasons of winter and weekly weariness, resiliency is fueled from previous rest periods, of quiet and stillness abiding in his presence. By neglecting Sabbath for work, the result is often a lesson in futility. Jesus is our role model.
His work was never finished. There were sick to heal, hungry to feed, demons to cast out; yet he awakens before sunrise for solitude and rest to commune with the Father. All the while people scan GPS from their cell phones trying to locate him.
When we allow our outside environment to dictate our inner worth, identity becomes lopsided. It’s why the Sabbath is a commandment, not a suggestion. Abiding in Christ through routine rest is the secret to flourishing in our full potential because God is in the business of redemption.
If you trust him with your work, do you trust him to redeem time?
The lizard responds to an inner clock, trusting in the outcome. Perhaps that is why I take comfort each time I pass the straggly potted plant in my garage and locate his whereabouts.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When was the last time you experienced true rest from work? What is keeping you from being able to stop?
PRAYER: Lord, just as the lizard responds naturally to inherent rhythms may we choose to trust in your faithfulness in a routine of rest and let go of work. Give us the courage to relinquish our grasp of time for what you deem sacred in the sinews of our makeup. May we realize the true power of redemption born in Sabbath. Amen.
Quitting time would be easier if deadlines, insecurity, perfectionism, and expectations disappeared. We could simply lay our pencils down and walk away from the task in peace. Unfortunately, this is not our experience. The urgent trumps the important. The urgent trumps the clock, too. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for God grants sleep to those he loves.” Conceptually appealing, yet realistically challenging when pressure knocks on the door, the wisdom of the Psalmist often fails to change our ways.
This article is part of a series at The High Calling called Pencils Down. Our hope is that in everything, from to-do lists to identity, we will be encouraged to make small advances toward stopping when it’s time to stop.