Guest post by Rachel Fahrenbach
It’s my pleasure to welcome my friend and fellow Hope*Writer Rachel Fahrenbach to Eighteen Inches. Rest is counterintuitive; we really don’t know what “rest” is let alone “how to do it”. When Rachel accepted my invitation to share her insights on rest with my readers, I was thrilled. I hope you are blessed and inspired by her words.“He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3)
I remember the deep exhaustion I felt a few years back. It wasn’t just a physical exhaustion; it was an exhaustion that tried my emotions and made me question my relationship with God. I felt like I was running a race that had no trophy at the end, or—worse yet—would never actually end. While a good portion of that exhaustion was due to the fact that we had adopted a baby and the sleep deprivation was very real, the truth was that a number of things in my life were simply off. In the years leading up to those tiring days, strong friendships had weakened, our church had closed its doors, the food pantry I ran was growing almost too quickly, finances were tight, and my husband was navigating caring for his mother whose health was failing her.
It was a lot. And I wasn’t dealing with it very well. I knew I needed to rest, that I needed a break, but even if I got some time to myself here and there, it was over too soon and never quite enough. My fuse shortened and I started snapping at those I loved. Chronic exhaustion created a heart of bitterness and anger.
Something needed to change. I started stepping out of roles, stepping out of obligations, and saying no to various opportunities, but the exhaustion continued. I was so very tired.
I think that is why I was ready for the conversation about Sabbath when it came up at our small group. I had grown up in the church hearing the 4th commandment yet dismissing it, but our church had been studying the Ten Commandments and we were now diving into the idea of keeping the Sabbath holy. It became quickly apparent that every person in our small group had a different idea of what a Sabbath rest looked like, but none of those ideas seemed to fit the narrative in the scriptures in front of us. I remember asking. “What if we’re missing the entire point? What if rest is more than just taking the day off?” My small group didn’t have an answer to my question, so I started looking for one.
It became quickly clear to me in the scriptures that the Sabbath rest God offers us was something much more than just physically resting. It was about a refreshing, a renewal of connection between Creator and creation. It pointed the Jews to the person and work of Jesus and it points us on this side of the Cross to the day when all things will be made new.
I didn’t know how exactly to make it happen, but I knew I wanted that renewal, that refreshing, that rest. We decided to start with simply picking a day and a duration of time. My husband and I landed on a 24-hour Sabbath period from Saturday to Sunday. We gave a basic structure to the time block and put some boundaries around it to protect that carved out time.
And then we just started practicing it. It was clunky at first, but quickly grew to be something we looked forward to each week. Very organically, I found myself spending time in prayer on Saturday evening as my husband put the kids to bed. That prayer time grew to include reflecting on my week. Then those conversations grew to processing my sense of identity, purpose, and belonging. As I met with Jesus and rested with Him week after week, I felt the bitterness and anger release their grip on my heart. While the difficulties in our lives did not end, in fact they grew with the loss of my mother-in-law and then a miscarriage, having a rhythm of rest and reflection established in our week gave us the space to bring the hard aspects of life to the feet of Jesus and place them there.
If you are in a place where you feel physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and spiritually distant from God, may I suggest taking a step back and ask, as I did in that small group, if maybe you’re missing the gift of true rest God offers you? Maybe you need to implement a rhythm of rest and reflection in your week, specifically by taking a Sabbath rest once a week. Sabbath is a gift wrapped up in a commandment. Maybe it’s time you receive that gift of rest.
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