Rest. As a practice this word remains irrelevant to some people, and it occupies a marginal amount of space in the lives of others. We have a common saying that commoditizes our time to dispensable currency (e.g. “time is money.”) New York City is colloquially dubbed as “the city that never sleeps.” Black Friday, arguably the biggest shopping holiday of the year, is pushed back earlier and earlier, practically into Thanksgiving, to the point that Thanksgiving is marketed as “Gray Thursday.”
We barely need to look around us to recognize how busyness is ingrained into not only what we do, but also virtually into who we are.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of dining and chatting with some friends who hail from literally different parts of the world, including myself – Southeastern Asia, Europe, Africa, and Mexico (saying North America seems so drab here). We talked about the pace of life in all of our native countries, and how vastly different it was from here in the United States.
Here, we rush. We are always rushing somewhere even if we don’t know exactly where to. I catch myself anxious to either go home, be here, or hurry there without a valid reason to rush. Don’t get me wrong. Being punctual in a time crunch is a reasonable option for rushing, but perhaps we do it too much. Maybe we’ve put too many items on our agenda, and we’re committed to spinning way too many plates. Not doing anything productive can be equated to idleness or laziness, and that can make someone look irresponsible. How many times have we cast judgmental glances towards people who look like they always have free time? And when someone asks how we’re doing, how often do we respond with “oh, I’m just busy” as if it is a badge of honor we proudly don?
I notice that I also have difficulty in being mentally and emotionally present. My mind is typically in the next thing I’m to accomplish, or where I’m supposed to be. This past weekend I was challenged to identify the areas in my life where I allowed myself to rest, or more appropriately where I didn’t. Resting is something humanity has been called to participate in since the dawn of our creation. In Genesis 2:2-3 we see God resting on the seventh day.
God calls this rest the Sabbath. God rested after laying down the foundations of creation. To rest is to withhold from working.
God did not cease to be God in the midst of resting and delighting in creation.
The importance of the Sabbath is found all throughout the Old and New Testaments, and I think there is great significance in this being located in the first pericope of the Bible. Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy all stress the importance of the Israelites, and all other people living in the land, to cease working and to rest for the purpose of being restored and refreshed. Ezekiel 20:12 expresses that the Sabbath is a sign between God and God’s people which enforces Yahweh as the God who sanctifies them. In the New Testament, Jesus preserves the practice and the essence of the Sabbath, though it is not strictly limited to the seventh day.
The aspect of God resting carries great significance because God is the one whom we should emulate. As God chooses to work, God chooses to rest. In God’s rest, the universe did not fall apart and life on earth did not stop flourishing. God is not a micromanaging busy-body. On the seventh day, God practices peace over and with creation, including humanity. At the same time, God did not cease to work and participate with creation for God is at work today in our lives and our world.
For the Israelites, the original intended audience of Genesis, in practicing the Sabbath they trusted God to be their Provider and Sustainer.
They were brought to a sacred place of remembering that their life, livelihood, and destiny largely depended on God rather than their own works and achievements.
With the Sabbath as the last day of the week, they were reminded that their purpose in life is to love and worship God by existing in holy communion with God. Resting is sacred. Resting is a gift from God in which we can pause, reflect, and be as we are with God.
Let us briefly participate in a spiritual exercise called the Ignatian prayer where the reader places herself within the biblical story. What was it like when God rested on the Sabbath with all of creation? How did God respond to the beauty of green leafy plants, birds navigating through the clouds, and the incandescent sun placing a warm delicate layer on everything? God delighted in creation in resting. God calls humanity to rest, and participate in the Sabbath.
As you are reading this, reflect on the pace of your everyday life. Are you constantly wound up like a tinker toy, or do you take time to rest and be present? We are a society that prioritizes hard work and dedication. Do you take time to step back from working, and reflect on the “daily grind”?
This week, let us begin the practice of resting throughout the day, at the end of the day, or even at the beginning of the week. Let us take the time to reflect on the beauty embedded throughout our lives through people and surroundings, because they are there.
 David L. Fleming, SJ. Ignatian Spirituality. http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/pray-with-your-imagination. January 23, 2017.