Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Discipline of Rest

It’s March, and my year of discipline is well under way.

I’m resisting the urge to judge how this is going. In an effort to avoid a checklist attitude and maintain my grip on the grace in all of this, I’ll refrain from breaking down everything into a “success” or “failure” category. Suffice to say that I feel I am growing in discipline, and I am benefitting from both the growth and the discipline.

I will share that Lent has been a particular challenge to me. I didn’t grow up in a Liturgical church, nor am I part of one now, but I have observed Lent (in one form or another) for the past few years, and it’s always a good exercise in discipline (and grace). Lent has been sort of a microcosm of the year so far.

In contemplating Lent, I’ve also been contemplating my commitment to discipline, evaluating some of my original goals and how they’re working out in real life. Some of the specifics of what I’m working toward have changed a bit, but the overall themes are still there. Health, spiritual discipline, writing. And over the past few weeks a new idea has been developing, one that, interestingly, seems to cross through all of those themes.

I’m contemplating the discipline of rest.

Over the past year or so I’ve read a few things on Sabbath rest. And then a few weeks ago a book review from Christianity Today struck home as I thought about it in light of discipline, particularly the part abouta rhythm where ‘the work takes on more meaning and the stopping takes on holiness.’”

Then the other day I read, “The minute you discipline time, you've entered the contemplative life. Practicing the Sabbath, honoring the liturgical calendar, spending time in prayer every day, resting—those are all practices that can lead to living the contemplative life.” 

This idea of disciplining my time to create a space for rest has resonated with me as I’ve worked a Sabbath into our week. And, in keeping with our overly busy culture, our Sunday is actually very full, with church in the morning, usually lunch afterwards, and individual activities for all three of the older kids in the afternoon. I wondered if all this activity really fit in with the idea of rest. After all, isn’t rest supposed to include a certain amount of doing nothing?

I talked to the kids about this in terms of chores (no chore Sunday!), although I would like to talk to them a bit further about rest and spirituality. The problem is that I don’t want to talk in terms of absolutes.

Sure, I can say “No chores on Sunday,” but if a chore truly needs to be done, or if that child didn’t get around to their chores on Saturday for legitimate reasons, then, yeah, they have to do their chores on Sunday. The same goes for homework.

And then there’s screen time. I could say, “No screen time on Sundays,” but what if we sit down to watch a family movie? And the same goes for other screens. My girls had a great time together goofing around on their iPods the other day—at a time when my girls having a great time together is a rare occasion.

And there’s something I’m discovering about myself in this pursuit of rest. I thought rest for me on Sundays would be about naps and doing nothing. But in the past few weeks I’ve found that there’s a great deal of mental rest to be found if I have a clean house by the end of Sunday. Yes, I want to work toward that on Saturday in hopes that there won’t be much work to do on Sunday. But there are 6 people in my house. A chore-free day ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. And I discovered that when I leave everything undone on Sunday in an effort to “rest” that I felt rather unrested the remainder of the week as I tried to catch up.

So while I want to use Saturday to get most of the weekend’s work done, I’m discovering that there’s a holiness and a rest that can accompany work, too. (After all, Jesus worked on the Sabbath.) I still want to establish a rhythm of physical work and physical rest, but I also have to work within the realities of our life right now.

All that to say, like much of the rest of my disciplines so far this year, I’m still figuring this Sabbath thing out.

What about you? How do you work rest into your day/week?

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