“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)
August is a hybrid month. About midway through the month, we move from the carefree (albeit hot) season of the summer break to the more routine and structured life that begins with the phrase, “Back to…” with some responsibility in place of the ellipsis. Back to school. Back to work. Back to the grind. Or, my favorite, back to football! Let’s not rush too quickly back to the busy-ness. There’s still time for one more trip to the lake, to the beach, or to the mountains. There’s still time for one more lazy weekend before the calendar starts filling up and the “to do” lists get longer.
I think the reason we like to hold onto the last little bit of summer is that our souls need the Spirit of the Sabbath to be whole. God designed us that way. Is it possible that we find ourselves lamenting the end of summer because we’ve never actually found the rest our souls need? Is it possible that our season of rest has been nothing more than another busy season, just with more of the activities we love?
God’s command to keep the Sabbath is not some legalistic prescription that is burdensome or inconvenient. Sabbath is God’s design for developing healthy rhythms of alternating rest and work. In the rest phase, Sabbath is as much about reflecting and recognizing how God is at work in our lives as it is about rest. Sabbath feeds our ability to do greater work for having reflected on “who we are” and “why” we do what we’re doing. If we’ve been so busy this summer that we weren’t able to reflect on the nature of our being and the direction of our lives, then it’s easy to understand why we’re having difficulty letting go of summer.
As in all things with God, there is grace. Even if you missed out on finding the renewal you were hoping for this summer, it’s not as elusive as you think, even now as you’re facing the onslaught of “back to…” Any time spent with God is an opportunity for your soul to be nurtured—even if it’s just a few moments in the morning before you begin your day. If you’re married, finding time at the end of the day to sit silently, holding hands, and being grateful can do wonders for renewing your energy. As a parent, when my children were small, gazing into their beds as they slept could serve as a form of meditation as I gave thanks for their precious lives (and for their sleeping!). As a single person, I remember spending time listening to music on my CD player late into the night and being moved spiritually. Take Sabbath wherever you can, whenever you can, however you can, and you’ll find the energy to carry on and to do great things.
Rev. Dale Cohen
Senior Pastor of Canterbury United Methodist Church