Rest sometimes escapes me. Even now that I’m retired, I find myself pushing too hard–to finish a post even if it is approaching midnight, to keep up with every tweet and Facebook post, to simply over achieve.
Now days, I only have myself to blame. I’ve always been a self starter, but there’s no boss other than myself now. I don’t rest enough. I stay up later than I should, and seldom a day goes by that I don’t work on this blog or the book.
I know better about over working myself. The first time I suffered physically from not getting enough rest was when I worked for the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission back in the 1990s. I worked long hours, because that was what it took to get the job done.
I remember realizing when my health started suffering. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I internalized a lot of negativity and eventually lost touch with my own body. The lack of rest resulted in much emotional turmoil.
I became the worst version of my own self. I went from being simply stressed, to tired, to mentally slow and finally physically vulnerable.
I developed back problems, I gained weight, and I became chronically tired. I felt like an old woman. even though I was barely 45. I finally quit the job that maybe I loved too much.
Recently, our interim pastor David Garnet brought us a sermon about the sabbath and what the Bible says about this special day of rest. This concept, though certainly not new, was something that stuck in my mind for some time afterwards. It made me rethink myself.
I remember Sunday’s when I was growing up. It meant getting up and getting dressed up, then going to Sunday School and church services. Afterwards, it could be dinner on the grounds, which was simply a big assortment of covered dishes brought by the church ladies. There was no better eating than maybe my Grandma’s own cooking.
Or we would go to my grandparent’s to eat Sunday dinner and then sit a spell and enjoy one another. Granddaddy would likely wonder off for a nap, and we would play outside with Grandma’s neighborhood kids.
My best friend Brenda Cone lived next door. Later, we went home and Mom and Dad relaxed and visited with each other or friends who dropped by. Occasionally, they took us down to the river to swim.
Somewhere since then, my Sunday’s became full of other things like sleeping in, shopping, or catching up on a project needed for Monday. In time Sunday became like all the rest of the days, and it got so bad that I frequently slipped back down to the office to catch up.
I know that the sabbath wasn’t the same for my ancestors. About fifteen years ago I had an opportunity to interview a 97-year old cousin, who grew up in our family not too far from where I was raised. She made me realize that my forebear’s sabbath was very different.
Sunday’s of yesterday especially in rural areas, that is until the invention of automobiles, were usually church meetings that met only once a month. She said that they didn’t have a full-time pastor, and that he just came around once a month. I know from interviews that this was typical in the rural parts of our country, where most people lived a hundred years ago.
I asked her if she remembered them meeting in between these visits, but she said no, just once a month. I should have asked her how the other Sundays went, but didn’t. I think they probably rested, though, much like my parents and grandparents did.
I’ve always looked upon the sabbath as something for God, to praise him…by keeping it holy; but Pastor Garnet talked to us about what Jesus taught. Jesus said that the Sabbath was meant for man, not for God.
Our pastor said that the origin of the word ‘sabbath’ is a little unclear, but the Hebrew word sabbat seems to have been derived from the verb sabat, meaning to stop or to cease. Its theological meaning is rooted in God’s rest following the six days of creation.
So because words like this intrigue me, I went looking for more information. Most religious leaders say that rest is essential for the soul. Not only do Jews and Christians believe in this, but also those of Buddhism, Islam, Baha’i, and even Wiccan (among others) teach the importance of setting aside a period of time for rest. Our soul requires rest.
Our pastor showed us several passages from the Bible about the sabbath, but three were of special interest. In the Old Testament we are told to remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
It says, “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.”
Two thoughts here. First, this is exactly what I thought the sabbath was. Second, did this mean that the wife didn’t get a day off? It looks like everyone else in the family and even the guests, cattle and servants got the day off, but why not the wife. This is in Exodus 20.
By the way the part about keeping the sabbath holy was the 4th of the 10 Commandments. All of this was in the Old Testament.
By the time of the New Testament, though, the Priests had added all kinds of rules and regulations for the sabbath, so Jesus added his own interpretation.
In Mark 2:27 “Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” He went on to explain, “so if your heart isn’t a heart for man—if it is not a heart of love—you cannot see the meaning of the sabbath. For the sabbath is a gift of love to meet man’s needs, not an oppressive burden to make him miserable or proud.”
Today, many of us put too much emphasis on ‘doing’ and not enough on ‘resting’. We push, push, push until we become stressed out and incapable of being our best. I’m as guilty as anyone. Even now in retirement I do not take enough restful time for recharging.
Pushing my body into overdrive makes for a stiff neck and a dull throb in my shoulder muscles. It also causes digestive malfunctions such as gas, bloating, acid reflux and all the symptoms that accompany an imbalance of good and bad gut flora. And some of the new studies are showing that a lot of our allergies and skin conditions trace to this, as well.
When I worked for Game & Fish, I developed hormonal havoc and later learned that the constant pulses of cortisol and adrenalin being pumped through my blood boosted this causing adrenal exhaustion and an overall hormonal imbalance that led to even nastier complications such as the weight gain mentioned earlier, but also estrogen dominance and chronic fatigue.
I was lucky that I stopped when I did because it could have also led to depression, insulin resistance (stress has a direct impact on your blood sugar levels), and even fertility issues.
And did you know that the it can accelerate the ageing process! Like wrinkles!!
Deep down I knew that I could come back later in a more productive and enhanced way to do my work, but I pushed on undaunted and unrested anyway. And people like us are everywhere–moms, students, office workers engineers, lawyers, truck drivers, store managers, and even retirees.
So keeping the sabbath was simply God’s wish for me, because I simply need to rest.
Rest allows my physical muscles to repair themselves and to prevent injury.
Rest is needed to form and maintain deeper relationships. It can provide time for us to visit and to enjoy each other’s company. Long talks help build community, whether it is family or the neighbors down the street. It is hard to do this while driving the kids around or while shopping at the mall.
I believe that when I finally learn to relax again that I will actually be more present and have more energy for myself, my friends and my family. I also believe it will help with better clarity of mind for when I do work.
I have been stressing over growing my social media sites for this blog. I spend far too much time trying to turn this corner.
I believe that I need to get myself back to being a more centered and well-rounded individual. I need to stop focusing on what I don’t have and start enjoying the things that I do–my family, my friends and life in general.