God worked. We are to work. God rested. We are to rest.
(Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)
Amid construction paper projects and figuring out how subtraction supposedly functioned, my childhood school day was dappled with monkey bars, swing sets, slides, a wide-open field, and huge shady trees. Recess! At some blessed point in educational history, brilliant grownups decided it would be cruel and unusual punishment (for both teachers and students) to not allow children a regular mental and physical break.
Way before that blessed point in educational history, though, God decided His own children needed a regular mental and physical break. He felt so strongly about the idea that He included it in the ten commandments. (Don’t steal. Don’t kill. Don’t overwork. Quite a different perspective than we have today, right?)
If the Lord had wanted constantly producing entities, He would have filled the earth with robots instead of people, but we were designed for more than simply our manufacturing ability. The need for rest has been hardwired into our frames since the days of Eden by a wise Creator. When all was whole and good and as it should be, there was whitespace—modeled by the indefatigable Maker Himself (Genesis 2:2)!
Sabbath, a glorious mixture of rest, play, and worship, is intended as a gift in a world that can’t slow down.
Ever heard of burnout? It’s so much more likely when we forget that we’re not designed to be God. Only He is all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, and when we breathe in that truth, we’re freed up to exist as happy and dependent children. (Underneath the seasons I haven’t made sabbath a regular priority lurked a misbelief that I “had to do it all”—a spiritual three-year-old in a business suit pretending she could manage the world.)
We have not outgrown our need for recess. It just looks a bit different now that we’ve graduated from freeze tag to “the real world.”
Maybe the golf course calls to you as autumn morning fog dances off a pond. Or an easel stands waiting for a few hours of your attention like an old friend. (Heck, even a long shower and an undisturbed nap might sound like bliss to you.) Those favorite “playgrounds” enable you to engage the rest of your life in a healthier way.
Perhaps it’s been so long since you were captivated by recess that you’ve forgotten how to really play. Your interior playground, abandoned and dilapidated, seems anything but inviting; the slides have all rusted over, the swingset creaks eerily. If your inner sabbath landscape looks like this, I have fantastic news for you—the time has come for an overhaul! (Very few things make me more excited than a big remodeling project.)
Reacquaint yourself with a spirit of adventure and begin exploring all kinds of different outlets. The best options are those that somehow involve both mind and body while bringing life to your soul. Pay attention to the way certain endeavors affect your emotions, and be willing to move on if one particular form of playful, restful worship doesn’t work for you.
In the same way kids need access to spaces of downtime in order to learn and grow effectively, adults can’t work or grow as we were created to without establishing restful rhythms. Next time, we’ll cover some practical ideas on how to plan, structure, and implement sabbath. Until then, consider this your permission slip to schedule some margin that is life-giving and soul-filling. Your spiritual health depends on it.