11. Sundays at the Cottage: Rest Is Ordained by God

for every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. — Hebrews 3:4

May, 2014

There’s been much chaos in my life lately….

Dashing between two houses, fixing up one to live in, fixing up one to sell, both of us working jobs, and trying to balance everything? I feel as though I am failing at it all.

We knew that redoing this little cottage would be hard; we were committed to having no downtime, but we forgot to factor in that we would also have another house to fix up too—the one we would be selling. After two years? I’m tired. Contractor husband is tired. We have iron-poor blood. Burnout with a capital B; Exhaustion with a capital E; Drained with a capital D. Bed—I just want to sleep for three weeks straight.

In about three weeks the job that I have loved for nine years will be ended, our city house will be almost on the market and we will be gently moving all summer (or until the house sells) to this unfinished cottage. (Please understand: I am not whining or complaining. I still love the cottage. I can’t wait to get here–I just want to wimp out about the rest of the work we have to do.)

Just looking at this To Do List makes me tired. (You might notice that “write” is not on the To Do List.) And this is only my list; it doesn’t begin to cover the contractor husband’s list.

Lately, because we are focusing on getting the city house ready to sell, we’ve only been at the cottage on Sundays. There’s no time to do projects, so it has been a day of rest for me. (Not for husband—he has to get the tractor out and mow because the grass is growing like it’s spring or something…)

At first I fought it and called it forced rest. But today I am sitting on the porch with my glass of cider, heeding the rules of the Sabbath. We need this weekly rest. God knew it and named it–Sabbath rest. I sit here and look at the sky and the trees and listen to the bird song and the trill of a woodpecker and the sack of burdens on my shoulder lightens with each breath. Today it’s a little chilly, so I have a blanket and a kitty for warmth. Yes, there is a breeze.

There’s a ton of stuff I have to do. I see my To Do List when I close my eyes. I hear the world’s voice in my worries: If you don’t get that house on the market by June, it will never sell. And then what will you do? You need to be more efficient with your time. Etc. Etc. And then sometimes, when I’m listening, I hear the still, small voice: Peace my child. I am in control. Give me your worries and submit to my time. That’s what a Sabbath rest is for, and it is why God ordained it. He knew we would never stop working, shopping, tending, doing, (add your verb here) long enough to just sit and listen for His voice.

Today the sun is golden in the blue sky and I am resting in the white fluffy clouds of God’s magnificent creation. Savoring nature is the easiest way to still the never-ending, jumping-around, neuron-colliding ruminations in my head.

But there are other ways to hear and feel God’s voice. He speaks through scripture and, often as not, when I am sitting on the back porch swing I have a Bible open on my lap. Sometimes it is my study Bible and with it, a notebook to write down difficult passages or Aha! moments. Just last week I purchased a journaling Bible that has no notes, no historical references, no maps. In that same vein, several reading Bibles have just been recently published; while divided into books, they have no chapter or verse markings to distract. I’m thinking I would like to read the Bible that way, too. 

I can sit on that back porch swing and sing my favorite Godsongs. Although my voice is not as sweet as the wood thrush who lives in the nearby woods, it is a little better than the squawking crow who is calling to his mate from the barn roof.

I can also read worthwhile books. Some on my to-read list: Life Together by Bonhoeffer; The Brothers Karamazov, which it pains me to say I’ve never read; A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken; Just As I Am by Eugenia Price; A Place on Earth by Wendell Berry; The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams.

I have consciously put away technology for this afternoon. I don’t want to look at that To Do List; but, I do have books on my Kindle, and a study bible on my iPad. The problem is that it’s much too tempting to maybe just check my email for a second, or the stats on my blog for the day. I don’t do Facebook, for that very reason, but we all know how enticing technology is when the phone, the iPad, the game controller, or the remote is in your hand. Fasting from technology on a Sunday is a good thing to do.

There is no law for believers to rest on the Sabbath. We don’t want to be like Pharisees about this. On occasion we go to grocery stores after church, and in the summer I work in my garden on Sundays. (To me, that isn’t work). But we are not now bound by laws—Jesus is our rest, our peace. If you have to work on Sundays, that’s the way it is; just be encouraged to take some other time during the week to rest, to listen to God, to pray. He made us to need Him; don’t think you can do it on your own. Take a rest from doing, and Be.

The Hebrew word for Sabbath, or rest, is Shabbat and was also “one of the terms employed by the Jews for ‘salvation’” (according to John W. Bowman who wrote The Layman’s Bible Commentary to Hebrews). In Hebrews 3 and 4 the author discusses the concept of Jesus as our Sabbath rest. Jesus, through his sacrifice on the cross, frees us from the works of the law and allows us to rest in the work of Jesus. That same sacrifice paid the price for our salvation. Jesus calls himself the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8), the Lord of rest. He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” in Matthew 11:28. If we rest in the work of Jesus, we will know that salvation—it is waiting for us eternally, and now in this world too. We no longer have to worry about our works gaining us good standing with God; we no longer have to worry about all those laws that God ordained for His people to keep (just read Leviticus if you don’t know what I mean!); and, as a result, we can have peace if “we draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

And so for today, I am efficiently using my time—resting and listening and being thankful for that grace and mercy provided to me by my savior—and he is allowing me to banish any visions of the To Do List that might flutter across my eyes.

For further study, read Hebrews 3 and 4.

Questions to think about:

  • Write your to-do list, tear it out, and either crumple it up or burn it or shred it. (Burning or shredding is better—then you won’t be tempted to dig it out of the trash and smooth it out.)
  • How amazing is it that Sabbath rest and salvation were used interchangeably in the Old Testament. How does that make you feel about resting on Sunday? Do you struggle under the burden of resting? What can we rest from?
  • Hebrews 4 also makes clear the connection of Sabbath rest and salvation. One verse reads, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” That is a scary verse! Yet just a few verses later the writer encourages us with the thought that we have a great High Priest in Jesus who understands our temptations and our humanity because He was human. How do you view the ending of Chapter 4?
  • Perhaps God has given us a “Sabbath Year” in this pandemic? The Jews were to have a Sabbath Year every 7 years (ours is way overdue) and then a year of Jubilee every 50th year (the end of seven seven-year cycles). That year was to be a year of debts forgiven, slaves and prisoners set free, and the mercies of God would be manifest. (It’s not clear if the chosen people ever celebrated this year of jubilee) Michael Card writes and sings, Jesus is our Jubilee. What take-aways have you learned from this Sabbath year of forced rest?
  • I just want to remind you that not too long ago we talked about busyness being self-importance. It’s so easy to forget, isn’t it?