Sabbath rest in post-grad life

This summer, my schedule drowned.

Having lived by a lake for most of my life and being a competent swimmer, I rarely use the verb “drowned” in any sense. Yet it seems an appropriate word for the past few months.

My schedule this summer was packed. Most days I didn’t know what I was going to do outside of work, eat and sleep. I wasn’t procrastinating on making a schedule: I made two spreadsheets for how I would spend each day, half-hour by half-hour, and tried to follow both. No joke. Yet I couldn’t accomplish everything I desired to do. Not even most of the things. For a while I was stuck in the whirlwind of living day-by-day, following the whims of a busy life.

Early last month I realized what was most likely causing the storm: I was trying to do too much. Yes, I had a plan, but that plan was packed, even overflowing with things to do. There was a limit to the time I had while my to-do list seemed endless.

In the midst of my two-spreadsheet life I realized something:

We’re better at hustling than we think and worse at resting than we realize.

This is a problem for me. Throughout my life I have been given goals: get good grades; win on sports teams; go to college; excel in college; don’t get fat in college; take classes that are important to my future career in college. (Now that I write them down, I can see most of my past goals included the word “college”.) And when I wasn’t given goals, I made my own: keep a strict, healthy diet; run a marathon before I turn twenty-five; move as far away as I can while staying in-state for college (there it is again).

These goals have been a large part of my motivation to move forward in life, to have accomplished so much. Yet they are only part of a balance which I only recently realize exists, which is this: goals set in motion while rest is crucial to maintaining that motion. In other words, the desire to accomplish something long-term is begun by setting a goal, yet that accomplishment will require regular rest in order to reach it in good shape and able to continue toward new goals.

While I was on the high school cross country team I began learning this lesson. For all my life until my freshman year, I had avoided running like I had avoided wearing striped pants: I didn’t do it except when I had to as part of a baseball team. A friend convinced me to join the track team in my first year of high school, however, and that turned into joining the cross country team that fall. Having despised running even after being on the track team, I had never cared to learn how to run well; but my interest in the subject necessarily changed, as did my attitude about running, once the cross country season began.

Nowadays I can’t recall most of what my coaches taught me then, but I can recall the simplest lesson: Run. Run every day during practice. Run when you don’t want to run. And then run some more.

That lesson became a goal: I would run every day of the week. After school every day I would run. And it didn’t take long for me to run before school as well.

Yet “run all the time” was not what my coaches taught. In the midst of setting the goal of running every day, I ignored another lesson which had also been taught: rest. Run six days every week and rest on the seventh. Don’t run on the seventh day. This lesson greatly improved my ability to run the following year once I paid attention to it. My muscles weren’t always stressed and tired. I wasn’t always stressed and tired. And largely because of this I was able to achieve race times I had only dreamed of in my sophomore year.

Last month, after having found my schedule washed ashore and lifeless, I realized this lesson applies to more than running. Rest is important to all parts of life. To work toward an end in a sustainable manner, a person must make time to not work.

This is hard for me to accept because I am an overachiever. For most of my life I believed this trait was a superpower, but now I know it has a negative side. I used to think I had to solve all of my life’s problems each day. The problem was that time didn’t allow me to accomplish such a feat. So I hated time. I would mourn the passing of each week, seeing in my to-do lists so many items left unchecked. Yet now I no longer despise time, but cherish it: I see it as a way to be free from my self-imposed shackles of accomplishment and productivity. Instead of needing to solve all of my life’s problems, I am free to pick the ones I care the most about and do what I can–and no more–to work toward solutions for them.

What do I do about the remainder of the problems? I trust my loving Father in heaven to take care of them as He will.

Trusting God is not easy for me to do. Yet it is imperative to living the life of freedom, forgiveness and faith to which God has called me.

I take comfort in remembering Jesus’ life: He didn’t solve every problem of every person He met, yet He accomplished salvation for the entire world.

This helps me come to terms with the mess that is my life. Life is messy, and we don’t have to clean it all up; indeed, we never will. Within this messy life, though, we have the opportunity to nurture our faith in the God who loves us endlessly as well as the ability to help other people deal with their messes.

Photo Credit: Bill Dickinson via Compfight cc

My schedule will never look the same as it did in the golden years of college. It has drowned; now I must replace it with a different schedule, one which includes times of rest. I am still struggling with living a life of working forty hours every week (often more). Yet I know I don’t have to accomplish everything I dreamed of as a teen to feel satisfied with my life. The creation account in Genesis 1 says God created the entire world in six days, and then decided to stop creating more. On the seventh day He rested. He said, “That’s enough.” Since God rests, I suppose I can too.

Will I have to give up some dreams? Yes. Will I have a copious amount of time to do everything I wish? No. But can I live a meaningful and fulfilling life while I work hard full-time and make time to rest? You better believe it.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

|| Psalm 27:13-14

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