I’ve just returned from 11 days away from home.  Our NYC trip was wonderful.  We got back on a Sunday night and left 12 hours later to fly to Texas to spend Christmas with my parents.  I hadn’t been able to see my dad in six months, so we really enjoyed the time together as a family.  And I soaked up the rest and relaxation in abundance. 

Yesterday it all drew to a close as we made the trek back from a balmy 70 degrees to wintry New England.  For almost two weeks I’ve really not thought about anything I have to do, and it’s been deeply refreshing to my soul.  I definitely have my task-oriented side, and I can tend to live and die by my to-do lists at times.  I’ve also had experiences in the past where I couldn’t really “leave work at work,” and holidays were no exceptions.  I was always just a phone call away, even if it was 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  It was only for a season, but I’m grateful that, right now, I am able to experience some freedom in this area. 

When we boarded the train home from the airport yesterday, I realized I had immediately shifted back into the mode of thinking of all of the tasks before me this week.  I had to get out a pad of paper from my backpack and start writing things down or I knew I would forget them.  I filled up the whole sheet of paper in just a few minutes.  I was shocked. 

I don’t share this to lament my to-do list for the week.  I share this primarily because it got me thinking about the role of rest in our lives. 

Believe me when I say that I’d been looking forward to these 11 days away from my normal routine for quite some time. 

We all need a break.  We were wired to need a break.

God’s command to rest is probably one of the most misunderstood and underestimated commands in Scripture.

A few years ago I read a book about Sabbath by Mark Buchanan.  In The Rest of God, he says:

“Sabbath-keeping requires two orientations.  One is Godward.  The other is timeward.  To keep Sabbath well – as both a day and an attitude – we have to think clearly about God and freshly about time.  We likely, at some level, need to change our minds about both.  Unless we trust God’s sovereignty, we won’t dare risk Sabbath.  And unless we receive time as abundance and gift, not as ration and burden, we’ll never develop a capacity to savor Sabbath.”  (Buchanan, 61-62)

It occurs to me that these next few days will find many of us making lists of resolutions and goals and lists for the coming year.

I believe there is a role for discipline in every life.  And I believe that following Jesus requires exercising discipline (and also disciplines).

But maybe in 2009 some of us need to resolve to rest.

Not all of the time.  There is a time for work and a time for rest (Eccl. 3:1).  I’m not advocating laziness.  And I do not intend to imply that seeking Christ is a passive affair.

But the practice of keeping a regular, intentional, and meaningful Sabbath over the coming year would probably do more for each of us than we realize.

It would probably make us much more effective with the rest of the items on that list we plan to stick on our bathroom mirror Thursday morning and likely disregard for the rest of the year. (I’m just saying.)

“It’s easy to skirt or defy Sabbath, to manufacture cheap substitutes in its place – and to do all that, initially, without noticeable damage, and sometimes, briefly, with admirable results.  It’s easy, in other words, to spend most of your life breaking Sabbath and never figure out that this is part of the reason your work’s unsatisfying, your friendships patchy, your leisure threadbare, your vacations exhausting.  We simply haven’t taken time.  We simply have not been still long enough, often enough, to know ourselves, our friends, our family.  Our God.”  (Buchanan, 61)

Maybe our to-do lists in 2009 need to include the commitment of periodically putting them on hold.

Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God.  (Psalm 46:10a, AMP)