Sabbath, Part 2: Refresh & Renew

hospitalWhen our oldest daughter was born, I was absolutely in love. She was PERFECT. No really, she truly was. She was less like a baby and more like a doll that breathed and smiled and spit up, so I had it easy. I loved our baby with all my little heart. But motherhood as a role was a bit of a rough transition for me. I mean, how do those hospital people just send a BABY home with you like it’s NO BIG DEAL?!!! You don’t even have to pass a test. It’s much harder to jump through the hoops of getting a driver’s license than it is to bring home a BRAND NEW HUMAN BEING. That is whack, if you ask me. I had NO clue what I was doing, and I still don’t. I call parenting one big “on the job training” exercise, but it’s more like skiing down a black diamond trail, right after you snap on skis for the first time. It’s terrifying, and there are a lot of wipe outs and so, so much pain. Trial and error, trial and error, and each error seems like it will result in injury. Everything seems like life or death. (As many wise parents have assured me, in a year those “big deal” things won’t seem as big, but they sure feel pretty big in the moment.) So you’re flying down the mountain, and right after you think you’ve gotten the hang of things, a jump or a zig zag pass comes into view on the horizon, which means you’ll need to learn how to navigate that in approximately 2-5 seconds, and the fear washes over you again anew.

Yeah, snapping on those skis and realizing the severity of the whole parenting experience was a little overwhelming for me. Ok, a LOT overwhelming. Top that off with the stress of moving, death in the family, and horrible hormones, and we had what is called a perfect storm. I battled depression and anxiety for a very long time. I would not want to relive that experience, but I’m weirdly thankful for it, because God used it to teach me SO much. Like I’ve mentioned before, it’s the perseverance in suffering that brings hope and growth. One of the many things that I was forced to confront and change in my life was the way I thought and lived in the area of rest. I tended to fly at breakneck speed or pass out when I was so tired I could no longer function. That doesn’t really work when you’re caring for a baby all day. The first difficult thing was slowing down. My life didn’t look productive at all, which felt all wrong and uncomfortable for me. A lot of this whole productivity vs. rest thing was wrapped into my identity, and reshaping that in a healthy way is a journey on which God has mercifully been leading me for years. I was achieving nothing, aside from keeping another human being alive. Shockingly, no one was lining up to praise this monumental accomplishment. In fact, because my baby was “not normal” and “sooooo easy” according to everyone around me, I felt like I was in the red as far as productivity goes. It turns out, that was exactly where I needed to be. I had to be achieving less than nothing for God to teach me that achievement has less than nothing to do with my identity. Read it again if you’re confused. Achievement has LESS THAN NOTHING to do with who we are. Our value lies in our identity as children of God, each one of us created as a masterpiece and loved more than our teeny human brains could ever fathom. THAT is who we are.

This identity misconception expressed itself in every area of my life, but it made “Sabbath” particularly difficult. When you’ve tied your worth to what you can do, doing “nothing” means you’re worthless. I didn’t realize that doing nothing could actually be purposeful. In the Jewish laws of the Old Testament, God got very specific about how Sabbath would be kept and celebrated. It was to be protected at all cost, and there were very detailed instructions on how it was to be spent. For many years I subconsciously thought all these specifications were at best unnecessary, and at worst an arbitrary impossible standard by a distant and somewhat angry God. Now I understand it differently. In my experience, it’s easy to come to a block of free time and just let it happen, doing whatever feels best in the moment, and then realize afterward that what I did was not the least bit beneficial to my emotional or spiritual health. God wanted to safeguard his children from burnout, and we humans are really good at burnout, even when we have the opportunity for rest. We need parameters.

Sabbath is not just about rest, but it’s about renewal and refreshment. It took a lot of time and effort to figure out what was actually refreshing for me. There’s a difference between what I default to in my free time and what actually renews me. It’s easy to plop down on the couch with a bag of Doritos and bowl of cookie dough and watch “Friends” reruns. Oh, you don’t do that? Yeah, me neither. That’s ridiculous. Just an example, of course. But when I actually started tuning into how I felt after my “down time”, it was enlightening. TV, magazines, and shopping left me feeling more depleted and edgy. Scrolling social media made me straight up crazy. Don’t even get me started on that Pinterest mess. It’s just food for the “never enough” monster. My thoughts on Pinterest can be summed up thusly: “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Seriously, sister. If you love to cook and it helps you find a recipe, search those pins and then get to cooking. If you’re a teacher and it genuinely helps you lesson plan, use it. (Set a time limit, maybe.) If not, get off that crazy train right now. You are enough without all that crafting and cooking and Martha Stewart-ing and crossfit-ing and bento box-ing. For the love of all of us, the bento boxes have GOT TO STOP. Ok, I’m done ranting. Just pay attention to your insides and what they’re telling you, and what makes you feel great. For me it’s reading, being outside if possible, moving my buns off the couch and getting my blood pumping, journaling, praying, or spending quality time with my best friend-who also happens to be my spouse.

So here’s my challenge for you (and for me-I’m still learning along this journey of finding a healthy work/rest balance): spend intentional time this week listening to your insides. What do you really need, at your core, to be at rest? Do that. Don’t do the other things. It’s really that simple. Hard, but simple.

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