“Busy and tired.” That’s how many of us describe ourselves. Harried, hassled, hurried. Tapped-out, stressed-out, and burned-out. Overbooked. Overworked. Overcommitted. Overwhelmed. Busy and tired.
David Steindl-Rast has reminded us that the Chinese pictograph for busy is composed from two symbols: the one for killing and the other for the heart. In ways we don’t often stop to acknowledge, constant busyness hurts our hearts. Listening and loving, learning and growing, experiencing wonder and giving thanks all require unhurried time, time to notice, savor, and ponder our experience.
You’ve likely heard that the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, said that “fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I have learned from painful experience that I am a different person when I am deeply fatigued, and the difference is not a good one.
We’re busy and tried, because almost all of us who can run are on the run, and even when our bodies aren’t in motion, our minds aren’t at rest. We’re fast-forwarding to the next things on our to-do list, and our hearts are racing with adrenaline.
It’s crucial that we find ways to press pause and mute; to stop our frenetic activity; and to enter into stretches of time which aren’t dominated by time, but are, instead, given over to the timeless. We need seasons in which we are not tyrannized by the urgent and immediate, but are, instead, in touch with the important and the eternal.
We weren’t made for nonstop, breakneck speed. We need rhythms of engagement and disengagement, activity and passivity, work and rest. The Bible’s favorite name for that kind of rest is “Sabbath.” We are called to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”—to remember the important of rest and renewal and honor them.
The Hebrew Scriptures (Exodus 20:10-11, echoing Genesis 1) tell us that we are invited to rest,to keep the Sabbath, because God did: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.” Not even God can do everything by doing. Sometimes, even for God, “not doing” is the way to get things done. Keep the Sabbath, Exodus tells us, because you may and you must: if God’s labor ceased, if God rested, who do we think we are never to stop, never to step back, never to recover and renew?
God knows when enough is enough, knows about “being” not just doing, and knows how to savor and enjoy a job well done. That seventh day, that day of rest, is called “Sabbath.” Sabbath reminds us that not even God can do everything by doing. God rested. And God invites you and me and all of creation to rest.
We don’t have to be plugged-in to the productivity machine 24/7/365. Stop. Breathe. Listen. Pray. Play. Savor. Enjoy. Sleep. Recover. Rest.